A deal to normalize Turkish-Israeli relations that was signed on June 28 was passed by the Turkish Parliament on Aug. 19 in the eleventh hour, just before the legislature went to recess.
After the deal signed by the Turkish and Israel delegations in June was passed by an Israeli cabinet commission, the first shipment of aid from Turkey reached Gaza last month. However, the delay in passing the agreement through parliament due to domestic political considerations has produced concern in Israel.
One of the issues that has attracted the most attention on the agreement is the fate of the legal cases opened by the families of the Mavi Marmara victims against the Israeli commandos responsible for the 2010 raid.
There is a prevailing view that the cases against the high-level Israeli military officials held responsible for the Mavi Marmara incident will automatically be dropped once the agreement passes through parliament. An official I spoke with on the Foreign Policy Commission had more to say on the subject.
According to the text of the agreement, Israel will deposit 20 million dollars in compensation in a bank account opened by the Turkish government. If they desire, the victims’ families will be able to immediately withdraw the funds. However, in that families refuse to withdraw their cases, legal proceedings will continue, with Turkey ultimately set to shoulder any consequences – not Israel.
The agreement guarantees that Israel will be exempted from all legal and criminal proceedings that have either be opened against it or could be opened against it in the future in Turkey regarding the Mavi Marmara incident.
Some 32 cases are currently in the system, the official said, noting that two of these had been concluded. The official added that the terms of the agreement did not prevent citizens from opening cases against Israel in countries other than Turkey.
On May 31, 2010, Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara ship in international waters as it was transporting aid to Gaza, killing nine Turks and one Turkish-American. Two years after the attack, criminal cases were opened against Israeli authorities in Turkey.
In May 2014, an Istanbul Court for Serious Crimes issued a red notice for then-Israeli Chief of General Staff Rav Aluf Gabriel Ashkenazi, Navy Cmdr. Eliezer Alfred Marom, intelligence chief Amos Yadin and Air Force Cmdr. Avishay Levi. Despite the passage of two years, however, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has never passed the red notice onto Interpol.
In accordance with legal procedures, now that the agreement is accepted by parliament’s general assembly, it will be presented to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanfor approval. After it goes into force with its publication in the Official Gazette, Israel is expected to deposit the compensation funds in the aforementioned account within 25 working days.
The two countries are then to exchange ambassadors as the first step of diplomatic normalization.
The Israel Prime Minister’s Office issued an official statement welcoming the Turkish Parliament’s decision and expressed hopes for the swift implementation of the agreement.
The approval of the agreement presents an important milestone in terms of the normalization between Turkey and Israel after six years, but the question of how the pair will henceforth handle the process is equally critical and will shape the course of bilateral relations.