Israeli PM, Cabinet Discuss Military Options on Turkey

Posted September 9th, 2011 at 3:21 pm (UTC-5)
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Israel says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet have discussed “various theoretical options” in the event of a military escalation with Turkey.

A statement from Mr. Netanyahu's office Friday said such a decision will be made if and when necessary.

The remarks come a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's warships will accompany its vessels carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip to protect them from Israeli interference.

Mr. Erdogan told al-Jazeera television that Turkey will not allow a repeat of last year's deadly Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor told Israel army radio Friday that Mr. Erdogan's remarks were “grave and serious.” He said he hopes the situation will pass.

In Washington Friday, the U.S. State Department urged both sides to refrain from actions that could be provocative or contribute to tensions. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States wants to see “these two regional allies of the U.S.” work together in support of regional peace and security.

Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel. It recently expelled the Israeli ambassador and other top diplomats from Ankara, and has suspended military trade and cooperation with its former ally.

Turkey's main opposition party has criticized the government's handling of the crisis, saying it should not have allowed such a drastic deterioration in its relations with Israel.

The dispute began in May 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara. The ship was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade aimed at preventing weapons from reaching militants. A confrontation on the vessel led to the killing of nine Turkish activists and the wounding of several Israeli soldiers.

A United Nations report published last week argued that Israel's naval blockade was a legitimate security measure, but said Israel used “excessive and unreasonable” force in the incident. The report also accused the flotilla organizers of acting “recklessly” by challenging the blockade.

Israel has accepted the U.N. report with reservations, while Turkey has rejected its key findings.