Talks between Israeli and Turkish officials about the botched 2010 raid of an aid vessel bound for Gaza were held in Ankara on Monday. Israel’s prime minister issued an official apology only a month ago, and this is the first time the two countries have formally talked about the incident since it happened.
The purpose of the meeting was to determine how much Israel would compensate the families of the victims– eight Turkish citizens. One American was also killed in the attack.
The incident sent a normally close and cooperative relationship between the countries into a complete freefall. Turkey pulled their ambassador to Israel, demanding an apology, compensation for the victims’ families and that Israel lift the blockade of Gaza.
American President Barack Obama reportedly brokered a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which the Netanyahu apologized.
The Israeli government issued a statement regarding the conversation: “In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational mistakes, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/non-liability.”
Although the apology looks like progress on the surface, there are still many hurdles to clear before the impact of this incident fades. Turkey is prosecuting in absentia the four Israeli military commanders who were responsible for the raid, and the families of the victims are pursuing legal action against the soldiers.
“We see the negotiations for compensation for those killed as disrespectful when no steps have been taken to ensure the rights of those oppressed in the Palestinian lands and while the siege of our Palestinian brothers continues,” said a statement from the families.
The families will only end their legal action if Israel ends its blockade of Gaza. The government of Turkey is also applying such pressure– the country became the first to send an ambassador to Palestine, which it did last month.
The flotilla was part of the Free Gaza Movement, a non-state group aiming to bring attention to what they call Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza. When the Turkish vessel attempted to break the blockade, Israeli commandos raided the ship. Israeli initiated the blockade in 2007 after the militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza. The goal of the blockade was to stop illegal arms smuggling into the region, but many activists feel that it unfairly punished Palestinian citizens who are not connected to any militant activity.