President Obama convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan for Israel’s response to the Mavi Mara flotilla, which launched from Turkey in an attempt to break the Gaza blockade.
“Netanyahu said that he regretted that that incident had led to a deterioration in their relations, and also that in light of Israel’s investigation into that incident, which revealed some operational mistakes, that on behalf of Israel he apologized for any deaths that those operational mistakes may have caused, and he hoped that the two countries would be able to normalize their relationship and work together effectively in the future,” a senior administration official said during a background press briefing today.
The officials explained that Obama facilitated the apology. “Well, I think, in one way, the timing of the call speaks for itself, and as I noted, Prime Minister Netanyahu, when he began that call, he began by saying to Prime Minister Erdogan, I’ve been discussing with President Obama the importance of regional relations, the importance of Turkey-Israel cooperation, and that is what led him to take this initiative now,” the official said.
The apology comes after Erdogan called Zionism “a crime against humanity” during a speech in Vienna – before saying the comment was misunderstood.
“Everyone should know that my criticism [is about] certain cases, particularly Gaza and the settlements, and directed against Israeli policy,” Erdogan told a Danish newspaper. “It is quite natural for us to continue to criticize Israel, as long as it has not abandoned its denial of the Palestinian state’s right to exist.” He defended himself by recalling a speech that denounced anti-Semitism.
“In this context, I stand behind my remarks in Vienna,” he also said.
Apparently, Netanyahu called that enough of a walk-back. “Prime Minister Netanyahu told Prime Minister Erdogan that he had seen his interview in a Danish newspaper and that he appreciated his words,” an administration official said.