ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)—In a possible deal with Turkey over compensation and an apology following the lethal May raid on the Mavi Marmara, Israel has been seeking a ‘full shield’ to protect both the state of Israel and its soldiers from possible legal action. As part of the push, both Turkey and the families to receive compensation would be required to sign a formal agreement preventing any legal action, the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review reported Friday.
The push comes during negotiations aimed at patching up the countries’ ties, which hit an all-time low following the Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla.
According to Hurriyet, Turkish and Israeli officials’ talks in Geneva did not only address issues regarding compensation and an apology, but also Israel’s demand that the “full shield” cover its soldiers. Under the Israeli proposal, Turkey and the families to be compensated will sign a formal agreement preventing any legal action or lawsuit being filed against Israel and Israeli soldiers.
Despite public criticism, such an agreement would put the Israeli government at ease, firstly because it would close the Mavi Marmara incident and stop Turkey from raising the issue at international platforms; and secondly it would also defend the actions of the Israeli soldiers and commanders, saying they acted in self-defense.
Even if an agreement is reached on this issue, it would be hard for the Turkish government to control individual claims against the Israeli raid in May that left nine people dead. The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which organized the ill-fated flotilla’s attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza insists on being able to file legal action against Israel even if the compensation issue is resolved.
“We will not give up on our cases,” Salih Bilici of IHH told the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday.
“We don’t want the matter to just end in compensation. We will open criminal cases against Israel,” he said.
In October, the IHH applied to the International Criminal Court (ICC), citing “human rights violations” carried out by Israeli officials. The court has not yet decided to approve or reject the group’s application, said Bilici.
Turkish and Israeli officials met in Geneva for two-day meetings last Sunday and Monday that ended before any concrete agreements were made. Turkish diplomats remained tightlipped on the content of the talks, while Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal reiterated that there had been no change in Ankara’s expectations of Israel.
However, contact with Israel would continue, he said.
“But at this stage there has been no scheduled meeting,” he told a news conference Friday.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is set to travel to New York next week to attend a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will chair the meeting scheduled to be held on Dec. 15. Diplomatic sources did not rule out the possibility that bilateral meetings could be held on the margins of the visit. Davutoglu may inform the U.S. about the latest efforts to reconcile the Turkish-Israeli relationship.
One of the toughest issues to be resolved before any reconciliation is possible is the apology, the Daily News previously reported. Israel is known to prefer to use the words “regret” or “sorry” because both its government and its people consider the dispatching of ships by the IHH to be a provocative act. In June, Israel blacklisted the IHH as a terrorist organization that had connections to Hamas, the radical Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.
“There is a debate on the wording, on the word ‘apology,’” Ozdem Sanberk, a participant in the bilateral talks in Geneva was quoted as saying by Agence-France Presse.
The compensation issue, however, appears less problematic for Israel than an apology. Davutoglu on Thursday denied news reports suggesting Israel had offered each of the victims’ families $100,000 each, saying they were “speculation.”