Poll: Most Believe Apology to Turkey a Mistake

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- A recent poll revealed that 71 percent of Israelis think it was a mistake to apologize for the 2010 confrontation aboard the Turkish-owned flotilla flagship Mavi Marmara, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

On May 30, 2010, pro-Palestinian activists attacked Israeli naval commandos with knives, clubs, chains and stun grenades as they attempted to board the ship when it refused to alter course from Gaza to Ashdod. The ship was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, imposed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Intending to use paintball guns if necessary to subdue aggression, the soldiers were finally given permission to use live ammunition to survive. Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian protestors were killed.

Israeli Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sedat Center for Strategic Studies, which commissioned the poll, said the strained relations between the two former allies won't change until Turkey is interested in restoring relations.

In March, following President Obama's visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for "operational errors" aboard the ship, which, he said, may have led to the deaths of nine activists.

Erdogan had demanded an apology and compensation for the activists' families as a prerequisite to renewing diplomatic ties with Israel. The apology doesn't seem to have made much difference. Negotiations are reportedly bogged down over the amount of compensation Turkish officials are demanding.

Before Erdogan took office in 2003, Israel and Turkey enjoyed close ties, but the friendship has deteriorated on all fronts under the Islamist prime minister.

During a speech on Monday, Erdogan's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said diaspora Jewry, backed by the foreign media, was behind the demonstrations against the government in May and June.

In his videotaped remarks, posted by two Turkish news agencies, Atalay said the "Jewish diaspora" and "foreign media" played a substantial role in countrywide protests this spring in which three demonstrators and one policeman were killed.

"There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey's growth," Atalay said. "They are all uniting on one side the Jewish diaspora," he continued.

"You saw the foreign media's attitude during the Gezi Park incidents. They bought it and started broadcasting immediately without doing an evaluation of the (situation)," he said.

Turkish police used water cannons and tear gas on what started out as a peaceful sit-in against Erdogan's announcement to replace a popular public park in Istanbul with a shopping center, mosque and Ottoman-era barracks.

The government crackdown on the demonstrators resonated throughout the country, rallying tens of thousands to protest Erdogan's attempts to impose Islam on the formerly secular country.

Atalay's office issued a statement saying he "never intended, uttered or indicated anything to offend Jewish citizens of Turkey or Jewish communities around the world."

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