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March 11, 2013 12:44 pm

Israel Foreign Ministry: Israel Doesn’t “Understand What Motivates the Turkish Government”

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Yigal Palmor. Photo: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In an interview with Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, touched on a wide range of topics including Israel’s relationship with Turkey and security threats in the region.

Palmor was asked by the newspaper whether an apology from Israel was the key to a diplomatic reset between the two countries, replying, “I think this is way over-emphasized and is given a wrong place in the general scheme of events that would lead us to reconciliation. The question is not the apology. The real question is, does the Turkish government want to normalize its relations with Israel?” But Palmor didn’t voice optimism, saying that Israel doesn’t “understand what motivates the Turkish government. We would know more if the Turkish government agreed to engage in some kind of dialogue.”

Pushed on the blockade of Gaza, Palmor pushed back, stating that “The term blockade does not correspond at all to the situation in Gaza, because any non-military material can go in,” adding that Israel had no choice in imposing the blockade. “If Hamas had not declared war with Israel this would not be the case. Restrictions at the border are purely for security and due to the policies of Hamas.”

One of the few things Israel and Turkey have been able to see eye to eye on in recent years is Syria. Though Turkey has been much more vocal in its criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Palmor says each country has a mutual interest in the outcome.

“We all have an interest in seeing a stable rational government in power in Damascus. A government not controlled by extremists. This is in everyone’s interest. Stability on the border is in everyone’s interest,” he told Hurriyet.

But he added that if other countries try to intervene militarily in the civil war in Syria Israel will not be counted among them. “We don’t have any pretext to [militarily] intervene in what is going on in Syria. Nobody wants us to do that and we don’t want to do that. We stay on the sidelines, except where our vital security interests are threatened. We reserve our right to limited intervention.”

Palmor also expressed his concerns that the sectarian conflict could be drawn out and that power good be usurped by parties not friendly to Israel. “The ‘Somalization’ of Syria is a great concern,” he said, referring to Somalia, a country widely regarded as a failed state run by rival militias and warlords. “We hope that this war ends as quickly as possible, with a central power emerging that will rule all Syria for the benefit of its own people and its neighbors. But until we reach that phase there will be many ups and downs, including the empowerment of extremists in certain areas of Syria, and perhaps with advanced weapons in their hands.”

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  • mr280zxt

    I am a Turk and I totally agree with Mr. Palmor. Turkey on the surface might be doing better as far as economy concern, but she lost something much bigger than that. That’s credibility.If Richard Nixon can go to China and talk to Chinese, Turks should be able to sit down with Israelis and talk to them as well. Erdogan is a religious biggot and bucking for Arab street love. He forgets that Arabs stabbed Turks from behind during WW1 and they preferred English and French troops over Turks…I have no compession for Arab street, hate their violent protest and never understood why they suck so bad in giving freedom to their own people. I am not sying Israel does no wrong. Plenty of it, (Remember Lieberman?) but at least, Israel is trying to approach Turkey while current Turkish government acts like a spoliled child…

  • jerry hersch

    If Turkey and Israel dawdle about their cooperation it will be too late to prevent Assad’s (and Iran’s) move to the coast. They are both bright nations and know what is at stake for both..Has Assad fully secured the east-west routes.

  • Jan

    They hate us because we are Jewish.

    • Idiot

      No, they hate you becuse you are racist. And atheists…

  • Gee

    What motivates the Turkish government is racist Islam. How hard is that to understand?

    Erdogan has been saying the same things for over 30 years now.

    • jerry hersch

      I don’t know about one being more racist than another..Nothing like walking through parts on NYC with friends of a visible minority and hear the Yiddish invectives…or communitiesin Israel where it is shot forth in Hebrew or another language..as if people don’t understand.
      Back in 1947 I remember my mother confronting abusive Jewish racists..at the time news was still coming out about atrocities in Europe

    • Ariel

      Palmor, again, is spouting diplomatic speak. This may or may not be the best thing for Israel. Perhaps calling it like-it-is is the best policy. It is obvious the Turkey’s Islamist oriented government is motivated ideology by Islamist supremacism. To Islam, Israel is an unacceptable presence on “Islamic” land. That Islam is a later day invader of indigenous Jewish land is not relevant to them. The Mavi Marmara incident is only a pretext, if you can call it that. It is hardly a pretext as the Turks sent off this ship with their blessings.