ANKARA – After nearly three years of political tension, diplomatic maneuvering, and back-channel negotiations, Israel has formally apologized to Turkey for the killing of nine Turkish citizens onboard the ship Mavi Marmara in 2010. On behalf of the Turkish people, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accepted Israel’s apology.
This is a major victory for a principled foreign policy pursued through smart diplomacy.
The Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla carrying more than 600 passengers from 35 countries to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestine, was intercepted by Israeli soldiers on May 31, 2010, resulting in the killing of nine peace activists. One of those killed, 19-year old Furkan Doğan, was also a United States citizen.
Because Israel unlawfully intercepted the ship in international waters and later refused to apologize for the killings, Turkey froze bilateral diplomatic relations, recalled its ambassador, and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara. Together with Turkey’s criticism of illegal settlement activities and the siege of Gaza, the incident drove Turkish-Israeli relations to their lowest level in many years.