JERUSALEM, Aug. 17 (UPI) — The Israeli government Wednesday bucked the Obama administration and refused to apologize for killing nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday to say he was unable to convince the conservative faction of his government to agree to an apology, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman argued an apology would be seen as a sign of weakness, the newspaper said.
Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel after the May 2010 incident that left nine activists dead. The U.S. government has been pressuring Israel to apologize for the deaths ever since.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday diplomatic relations won’t resume until Israel accepts responsibility and provides compensation to the victims.
“God forbid we apologize,” Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told a group of Likud Party officials Tuesday. “National pride is not just something people say on the street, but it has strategic significance. If Erdogan goes around afterward and says that he brought us to our knees, he will appear as a regional leader in the Middle East. He won’t leave it alone, even after we apologize.”
“The prime minister has said on several occasions that he’d like to see the Israeli-Turkish relationship on a more positive trajectory,” said government spokesman Mark Regev. “We didn’t want and didn’t initiate the deterioration.”
“Leaders on both sides are having this fistfight over the honor of their countries, but they’re overlooking their interests,” said Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey. “It’s completely crazy to not find a diplomatic solution. It’s not that complicated. Look at the turmoil going on in the Middle East, especially now in Syria. These two stable countries need to coordinate their activities and renew a strategic dialogue.”