Lieberman won’t bolt gov’t. over apology to Turkey

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman toned down his opposition to a proposed rapprochement with Turkey.

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Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is junior coalition partner to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, has openly scorned Ankara’s demand that Israel apologize for storming the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Marmara last year.

But with Israeli officials indicating Netanyahu may opt to mollify the Turks in exchange for their agreement not to prosecute naval personnel in international courts, Lieberman took a more conciliatory tack Sunday.

He reiterated his view that the onus should be on the Turks to make amends, but demurred when asked whether a decision by Netanyahu to apologize might trigger a walk-out by Yisrael Beiteinu.

“Whether or not there is agreement in the government about this matter, this government is strong,” Lieberman told reporters. “No one is looking for excuses and reasons to leave the government.”

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 eight Turks, and one Turkish-American, who were killed in clashes aboard the Mavi Marmara. 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.

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