Ya'alon: Turkish Demand for Apology 'Chutzpa'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon called Turkey's demand for an official apology over last year's confrontation aboard Mavi Mamara "chutzpa," Army Radio reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Ya'alon to lead an eight-member team of senior ministers tasked with solving the Israeli-Turkish diplomatic standoff.

The incident took place aboard the Turkish-owned flagship, Mavi Marmara, which led a six-vessel flotilla to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The ship's captain had refused to sail to Israel's Ashdod Port to unload humanitarian aid for land transport to Gaza.

Israeli naval commandos attempting repel to the ship's deck from helicopters were bombarded by pro-Palestinian activists as they touched down. Many of the "activists" were recruited by the Turkish "humanitarian relief fund" IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), with known ties to terror groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

The activists attacked the soldiers with knives, metal clubs, stun grenades and chains.

The soldiers, intending to use paintball guns to quell any disturbance, had to use their handguns to survive. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the ensuing battle.

Ya'alon holds Turkey responsible for the provocation and is opposed "in principle" to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's demands for an apology and remuneration to families of the men who were killed.

Ya'alon said the U.N.-sponsored Palmer Commission's report, which affirms Israel's legal right under international law to maintain the naval blockade, should be released. The report faults the IDF for using "disproportionate" force.

According to Ya'alon, Erdogan is looking to raise Turkey's status "in the eyes of the Arab world, Hamas and Hezbollah." He's equally unimpressed with Turkey's threats not to return an envoy to Tel Aviv, saying the demands are disproportionate.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor are more willing to make concessions in order to renew diplomatic ties with Turkey, but they are outnumbered by ministers who are against apologizing to Turkey.

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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