At the end of President Obama’s recent visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and ‘expressed apology’ to the Turkish people for any error that could have led to the loss of life in the Marmara flotilla incident. In response Erdogan accepted the apology and agreed that there is a need to normalize relations. The reconciliation process was believed to have been initiated by the United States as an outcome of President Obama’s visit to Israel. An official Israeli statement said that Israel had also agreed to compensate the victims’ families. 

Speaking before his departure from Israel President Obama said “The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security.”  The first conversation between the two leaders since 2011, when Netanyahu phoned to offer help after an earthquake struck Turkey, gave Obama a diplomatic triumph in a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in which he offered no new plan to revive peace talks frozen for nearly three years.

The apology, given in relation to the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla has led Israel and Turkey, both US allies, to agree to normalize relations. The rapprochement could help regional coordination to contain spill over from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel’s diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program. In response to the Israeli apology, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan underlined the importance of strong cooperation and friendship between the Turkish and Jewish nations in a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart his office said.

“Erdogan told Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu that he valued centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations,” the statement from Erdogan’s office said. A senior Israeli political official confirmed that a conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan did indeed take place, at Ben Gurion Airport in the presence of US President Barack Obama. According to the source “Netanyahu believed it is important to make such a call in light of the developing situation in Syria. 

The 30-minute call was made in a runway trailer at Tel Aviv airport, where Obama and Netanyahu huddled before the president boarded Air Force One for a flight to Jordan, US officials said. Israel bowed to a long-standing demand by Ankara, once a close strategic partner, to apologize formally for the deaths aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which was boarded by Israeli marines who intercepted a flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip. “Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life.”

Netanyahu and Erdogan “agreed to restore normalization between the two countries, including returning their ambassadors (to their posts),” the statement added. A US official said “Erdogan accepted the apology on behalf of Turkey.” Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated Israel. Israel had previously balked at apologizing to the Turks, saying this would be tantamount to admitting moral culpability and would invite lawsuits against its troops.

Voicing until now only “regret” over the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has offered to pay into what it called a “humanitarian fund” through which casualties and their relatives could be compensated. A source in Netanyahu’s office said opening a new chapter with Turkey “can be very, very important for the future, regarding what happens with Syria but not just what happens with Syria”. Before the diplomatic break, Israeli pilots trained in Turkish skies, exercises widely seen as improving their capability to carry out long-range missions such as possible strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman said Israel’s apology for the actions of IDF soldiers against terrorist agents was a serious mistake. Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time of the 2010 incident said “Anyone who has seen the pictures from the Marmara understands that the IDF soldiers acted in self-defence.” However, Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich praised the Prime Minister’s decision to reconcile with his Turkish counterpart. She said: “It is best to swallow one’s pride and do what is beneficial for the country.” Yachimovich added “we hope that the reconciliation will strengthen Israel’s diplomatic and strategic standing.”   

Source: Y Net News



Israel wasn’t about to sit by and let the same plague of locusts attacking Egypt destroy crops in their country as well. As millions of insects blackened the skies of Israel near the Egyptian border, Israel’s Agriculture Ministry sent two planes and a host of trucks out to an agricultural area bordering the country and set to work spraying pesticides. An insurance representative for the government, Shmuel Turgeman, declared the threat was now under control. Though the locusts moved north towards Israel, they did not reach central Israel’s major population centres because of a cold front which drove the locusts south. 

Saleh Bakheet, director general of the Department of Plant Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, said, “The situation is under full control and protection of the Ministry of Agriculture.” On a side note, apparently locusts are eaten as snacks by some Israeli’s.  Indeed, Rabbi Yizhak Yosef was quoted as having instructed his yeshiva students not to eat the insects. “We are not familiar with their names and their signs,” he said. “We have no clear tradition about them.”

Source: Times of Israel



Israeli media outlets have heralded the selection of new Roman Catholic Pope Francis I as a leader who will extend a hand of friendship to Jews around the world.  Pope Francis sent a message to Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, inviting him to worship with him at the Vatican on March 19. The Vatican Radio quoted the Pope as saying, “I sincerely hope to be able to contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics have enjoyed since the Second Vatican Council,” adding that he also hoped to contribute to a “spirit of renewed collaboration.” 

The Jewish community in the Italian capitol is reportedly the oldest in the diaspora. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel said: “Francis’s good relations with the Jewish people are well known.”

Source: Reuters