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Israeli-Turkish Détente Hits the Snag We Knew It Would

It’s never been about the money

Adam Chandler
July 25, 2013

At the core of the diplomatic fissure between Israel and Turkey, whose ties have been frozen since 2010, is one intractable issue: Whether Israel need apologize for its (entirely justifiable, but terribly executed) raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, which resulted in the death of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American and the injury of ten Israeli commandos.

For almost three years since the incident, it seemed as if Israel would be unable to thread the needle in delivering an apology for the incident that would allow the Turkish government to save face domestically without undermining the efforts of the IDF, which boarded the ship in response to a threat to breach Israel’s blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Then at the eleventh hour of President Obama’s trip to Israel in March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologized.

Many hoped the apology would allow the vital alliance between Israel and Turkey to start anew and, for a short while at least, talks to restore ties were taking place. The only hurdle left was a compensation package for the victims. Today it’s being reported that the talks have now stalled.

Reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel have reached a stalemate after only three meetings in April and in May.

Previous reports said the deadlock in talks was a result of disagreements over the amount of money Israel would pay in compensation to the families of the nine Turks that were killed aboard the Gaza flotilla.

[Turkish Deputy Prime Minister] Arinc insisted the amount of money was not the contested issue, but rather Israel’s acknowledgement of the incident as a wrongful act. He added that talks about the amount of money cannot take place before Turkey’s other two conditions – for Israel to acknowledge the loss of lives in the raid, and to lift its blockade on Gaza – are met.

In addition to this snag, Israel also never promised to lift the blockade as a condition of repairing ties. The question now is will these developments derail the entire reconciliation effort?

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.