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CIA Chief's Quiet Push For Israeli Apology To Turkey For Flotilla Deaths

US spy chief Patraeus makes low-profile visits to Ankara and Jerusalem, aiming to repair damage between two key U.S. allies.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Turkish protests against Israel have continued since the 2010 raid

ISTANBUL - CIA director David Petraeus’ visit to Turkey has caused great debate here among high-ranking officials. Syria was the main topic covered by Turkish newspapers, and the central focus of his talks with the undersecretary of National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Hakan Fidan.

Press reports cited several assertions that were made during their conversation, ranging from support for the Syrian opposition to Bashar-al Assad’s possible use of chemical weapons.

But the real purpose of the visit was different.

Fehmi Koru was the only one to put the pieces of the puzzle together in his notable article that was published under the alias, Taha Kivanc: “Why has nobody noticed that Petraeus was in our region for a dual purpose? Petraeus diverted his plane to Tel Aviv for the second leg of his tour after talks in Istanbul. He will relay the mood he found here to those he was slated to speak with in Israel." 

Korun's conclusion: "The reason for his visit is most likely about the deadlock in Israeli-Turkish relations, which has a great impact on the United States.”

I believe Koru is 100% right about the real purpose of the Patraeus visit.

So, what did he say?

In Turkey, he discussed the importance of normalizing Turkey-Israel relations at a time when there is so much unrest in the region. He then signaled for Israel to formally apologize for the deaths of the nine Turkish citizens, who lost their lives during the Israeli offensive on the Mavi Mamara aid vessel that was part of the flottila bound for Gaza in May 2010.

Obama's urgency

Another detail from the trip that should not be overlooked is that Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman accompanied Petraeus on his visit.

Senators McCain and Lieberman are not ordinary senators. McCain was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the last election and Lieberman, the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 2000 who has since become an often harsh critic of his former political party. Both of them are very close to the Israeli government. 

Apparently, U.S. President Barack Obama is adamant for relationships between Turkey and Israel to improve during this critical period in the region. If there were no urgency in the matter, he wouldn’t have sent two senators that also happen to be rivals as he heads into the upcoming election.

Sit tight; after all the zigzagging, lets see whether the real aim of the trip is met or not.

And from whom?  From Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (not related to the U.S. Senator), who has been the most opposed to the apology?

The same message issues to Turkey were delivered in Israel during Petraeus’ visit. The message is this: 

“The Middle East is boiling. There is too much uncertainty. The lingering Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis does not serve the interest of either country. Apologize to Turkey just as we did when we accidentally killed 24 civilians in Pakistan, and finish this matter.”

How do I know?

There is evidence from the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, which typically best knows the pulse of the Israeli Foreign Ministry:  “Avigdor Lieberman said he was ready to issue a similar apology statement like the one the U.S. made after it killed civilians in Pakistan.” 

It is Lieberman personally who gave the above statement after Petraeus’ visit. In other words, the person who caused the flotilla crisis to escalate to its present stage. 

What do you think? Has the aim been reached? 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has not received a written official apology from its Israeli counterpart. But it is imminent… 

I wanted to inform Fehmi Koru, who correctly drew attention to the subject in his column yesterday: Israel will indeed apologize this time.

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