Netanyahu pledges to defend Marmara commandos


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will defend its soldiers, accused by Turkey of unlawfully murdering its citizens aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla, "in every forum."

"We need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended their lives against an assault by violent IHT activists," Netanyahu said at Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting, in addressing the release of the U.N.’s Palmer Report on Israel’s May 2010 boarding of the Turkish-flagged ship Mavi Marmara. "We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas, a terrorist organization that has already fired over 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds at our civilians. We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to defend our people, our children and our communities.

"To the naval commandos, I would like to say that just as you and the rest of the IDF defend us, we will defend you everywhere and in every forum."

Turkey on Sept. 2, the day the report was released, announced the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador in Ankara and said it would pursue legal action against Israelis involved in the boarding of a Gaza-bound ship that ended in bloodshed.

In a statement released Sept. 2 by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said that "Israel once again expresses its regret over the loss of life, but will not apologize for its soldiers taking action to defend their lives. As any other state, Israel has the right to defend its civilians and soldiers."

He also called on Turkey to join with Israel in repairing ties between the two countries.

"Israel cherishes the significant ties, past and present, between the Turkish and Jewish peoples," the statement said. "For that reason, the State of Israel has made numerous attempts in the last few months to settle the dispute between the two countries, but regrettably, these attempts have not been successful. The State of Israel hopes that a way will be found to move beyond this discord and will continue its endeavors to that end."

The statement added that Israel’s ambassador to Turkey had already concluded his term earlier last week, which had been planned for several months, and had said goodbye to his Turkish colleagues. No successor has been named.

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