JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman toned down his opposition to a proposed rapprochement with Turkey.
With Israeli officials indicating that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may opt to mollify the Turks in exchange for their agreement not to prosecute naval personnel in international courts over the Mavi Marmara incident last year, Lieberman took a more conciliatory tack Sunday.
While he reiterated his view that the onus should be on the Turks to make amends, Lieberman demurred when asked whether a decision by Netanyahu to apologize might trigger a walkout by Yisrael Beiteinu.
“Whether or not there is agreement in the government about this matter, this government is strong,” Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is a junior coalition partner to Netanyahu’s Likud, told reporters. “No one is looking for excuses and reasons to leave the government.”
Lieberman has openly scorned Ankara’s demand that Israel apologize for storming the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010 and the resultant violence that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, including one Turkish American.
An apology is not all that Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan expects of Israel. On Saturday he reiterated his call on the Israelis to compensate the families of the nine casualties. Erdogan also wants Israel to lift the Gaza blockade.
An international inquiry set up by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to issue its findings on the Mavi Marmara seizure this week. Israel says the report will mostly vindicate its actions, and is worried that in the absence of a reconciliation deal with Turkey, bilateral ties will deteriorate further.