by Herb Keinon
Former No. 3 at Pentagon calls on Israel to act 'more strategically' and reconcile with Turkey; Liberman tells visiting German president that Ankara cannot "intimidate" IDF officers.
Israel's hand extended in peace is not always responded to in kind by governments in the region, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in a cryptic reference to Tuesday's Turkish court decision to indict four former senior IDF officers.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, headed by former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin who was among those indicted by the Turkish courts, Netanyahu said he wanted to say "very clearly" to IDF soldiers and officers that "the State of Israel will always stand at your side, everywhere and everyplace. You defended us, we will defend you. That is an important rule."
On Monday a Turkish court decided to indict Yadlin, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and two other former senior officers for involvement in the Mavi Marmara incident last year that led to the killing of nine Turks trying to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
Just minutes before Netanyahu spoke, Michele Flournoy. who served as the third top official in the Pentagon before stepping down earlier this year, told the same forum that it was very important for "Israel to repair its relationship with Turkey."
Flournoy, who played a key role in shaping US President Barack Obama's national security policy, said Turkey was one of the strongest and most influential voices in the region, remained a close and valued NATO ally for the United States, and shared "our interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state."
While acknowledging that "she understands that past events have made concrete steps towards reconciliation quite difficult," Flournoy said "if there is ever a time for Israel to rise above past differences and recriminations with Turkey, now is that time. Israel must act more strategically, and I think there is tremendous opportunity to rebuild its partnership with Turkey, and with other partners where it can. This is really important at a time of such [regional] uncertainty."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, told visiting German President Joachim Gauck that just because Israel did not respond in kind to Turkey's "provocations," did not mean that it would allow Ankara to intimidate IDF soldiers operating according to the highest moral standards.
Liberman said that for the last number of years Israel has conducted itself with "maximum restraint" in the face of Turkish provocations. a policy he said dated back to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's berating President Shimon Peres at a conference in Davos soon after operation Cast Lead in 2009.
"But restraint does not mean that Israel will allow the intimidation of its officers and soldiers acting under the highest ethical standards, with full justification under international law, as determined by the UN's Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara," he said.
Liberman said he hoped European countries would not cooperate with Turkey regarding the "absurd charges" against the former IDF officers. He further said he expected Europe to call Turkey to order and not go along with the provocations of a NATO member state that has "lost its direction and acts contrary to accepted international rules."
The foreign minister said Israel would continue to act responsibly and not be dragged into counter provocations against Erdogan "out of concern for regional peace and stability."
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