Downgrading its relations with Israel, Turkey expelled the country's ambassador and cut military ties with its former ally. All over an apology that Israel refuses to give.
And yet, Israel remains unfazed, declining to apologize for an armed assault on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine people.
Israel, like all nations, has the legitimate right to defend its civilians and soldiers, a senior Israel government official said Friday.
The move brings Turkish-Israeli relations to an all-time low, coming the day of a U.N. report into the May 31, 2010, Mavi Marmara incident was published. It found that Israel had used excessive and unreasonable force to stop the flotilla approaching Gaza, but that it was justified in maintaining a naval blockade on the Palestinian enclave, The Guardian reported.
Announcing the new measures, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Israel ambassador, Gabby Levy, and other senior Israeli diplomats would have to leave their posts by Wednesday; Turkey also downgraded its representation in Israel to the junior level of second secretary.
The time has come for Israel to pay for its stance that sees it above international laws and disregards human conscience, Davutoglu said. The first and foremost result is that Israel is going to be devoid of Turkey's friendship ... as long as the Israeli government does not take the necessary steps, there will be no turning back.
Israel's official said the Palmer Commission report, presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, again expressed its regret for the loss of life, but will not apologize for actions of self-defense taken by its soldiers. The official said that Israel understood the importance of the historic relations between the Jewish and Turkish people. In light of that, Israel made many efforts in recent months to solve the conflict between the countries, but these did not succeed.
Turkey had demanded a formal apology from Israel and compensation for the families of the victims as a condition of improving and continuing relations. A compromise broke down, however, when it was rejected by the Right in Benjamin Netanyahu's Israeli government.
There is a deep sense of frustration within the Turkish foreign policy establishment that despite the efforts to mend the relationship and despite coming very close to agreeing to a text, the situation became untenable, said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who is now an analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank.
The publication of the U.N. report really established a deadline. Its publication had already been postponed twice, and the Israelis then asked for another six months delay, which Turkey would not accept.
There is a feeling that neither Israel nor Turkey has anything to win ny this, and there must be a degree of frustration in Washington, too, as it invested a lot of time and effort in the efforts to mend this, Ulgen said. Turkey seems to have lost the ability to play a role in the Middle East peace process because of the breakdown in the relationship with Israel. It was one of the few countries that could talk to both sides. That ability is gone and is unclear if we will be able to regain it. By being unable to settle the relationship with Turkey, meanwhile, Israel has lost a friend and ally. This is a lose-lose situation.