Official: If apology to Ankara fails, not Israel’s fault


Jerusalem hopes its apology to Ankara for mistakes that might have led to the  unnecessary loss of life on the Mavi Marmara turns the page in relations with  Turkey, but if it does not, one official said, everyone will see “that Israel  went the extra mile.”

The official’s comments came even as Turkish Prime  Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to “rub Israel’s nose” in the apology,  claiming it now makes Turkey a major player in the diplomatic process with the  Palestinians.

Although the official refrained from specifying who he had  in mind when saying that “everyone” would see that Israel did its part to mend  fences, the US had for months been pushing for an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement,  arguing that this was supremely important to American efforts to cope with the  radically changing Middle East.

In addition to US President Barack Obama, who brokered the phone call between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and  Erdogan, and who expressed support for the efforts at healing the  Israeli-Turkish rift, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor  Angela Merkel called Netanyahu since Friday to welcome what Merkel called the “understandings” between Turkey and Israel.

One senior diplomatic  official said that finding a way to put the Mavi Marmara incident behind Israel and Turkey was an important  demonstration to the US that Jerusalem could act as a “team  player.”

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser downplayed Turkey’s “celebrations” over the apology, saying Wednesday on Israel Radio that this was not  important.

“The bottom line is that there was a central interest in  taking this issue off the agenda between the two countries in light of the  changing realities in the Middle East and what is happening in Syria,” he  said.

There is no doubt that proper Israeli-Turkish ties are “not only an  interest for the two countries, but it is also an American interest,” Hauser  added, saying there was no reason for Israel not to work in coordination with  Washington regarding US ties in the region.

Amos Gilad, head of the  Defense Ministry’s diplomatic security bureau, told Israel Radio that the US was  very keen that its allies in the region cooperate to help Washington cope with  the changing landscape, from Tehran to Damascus.

When asked about  Erdogan’s boasts, Gilad said it was important to distinguish between the “foam  and the wave.” He said that there had been a clear agreement between Israel and  Turkey, and that the focus should be on the agreement, not on Turkish comments  about it.

Ankara’s acquiescence to stop legal proceedings against the IDF  soldiers was at the “heart” of the agreement, he said.

Israeli officials  would not relate to reports of differences in the sum Israel was willing to pay  the families of the nine Turks killed on the Mavi Marmara, saying the technical  teams set up to discuss the matter had not yet met, and that it was premature to talk about details of the compensation package.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Wednesday that Erdogan had told parliament a day earlier that  the Israeli apology changed the overall equation in the Middle East.

“The  point we have arrived at as a result of our consultations with all our brothers  in Palestine and peripheral countries is increasing our responsibility with  regard to solving the Palestinian question and thus is bringing about a new  equation,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.”

This swagger was largely  dismissed by one official in Jerusalem, who said that while Israel was happy for  parties to promote peace, “four hours were spent Saturday night on the  Palestinian issue with the Americans, and that is where the focus is. There are  serious efforts underway to restart the talks, and the best thing would be to  support those efforts.” •


Armenian Weightlifting Champ Wins Best Female Athlete Title

YEREVAN (A.W.)–Just months after winning the “Best Athlete of the Kotayk Province” title in Armenia, Olympic medalist Hripsime Khurshudyan has added another accolade to her name. On Fri., March 8, Khurshudyan won the award for the 2013 “Best Female Athlete” in Armenia.

The 25-year-old weightlifting champion is best known for her breakthrough performance at the London Olympics this past summer, where she won the bronze medal in the women’s +75 kg. class.

Her latest award was unexpected for the athlete. “I could not believe when I heard my name announced for the title of the Best Female Athlete of 2013,” Khurshudyan told the Armenian Weekly in an interview. “It was really unexpected. I could not find the words to describe the moment.”

Khurshudyan was so honored by the award that she did not know how to release her emotions. “I decided to post it on my Facebook page, something I didn’t even do when I won the bronze at the Olympics!” she said.

Her current goal is to win the Olympic gold, but she will be taking it easy for the next few months—at least until her baby is born in October. “I will then return to work towards the 2014 World Championships, and afterwards I will go for the gold at the Olympics in 2016,” she said.