Israeli media sources have reported escalating differences between members of Israel’s coalition cabinet over the apology demanded by Turkey following Israel’s massacre of nine Turkish citizens aboard Freedom Flotilla I. The dispute between the two states has continued to fester since the deadly Israeli attack in May 2010.
On Wednesday, July 27, Haaretz newspaper referred to explicit differences between Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman who objects to extending work visas for 350 Turkish employees in Tel Aviv. On the other hand, Barak favours the avoidance of any steps that may further widen his country’s diplomatic rift with Ankara.
During the eight-member Israeli ministerial forum held to agree on a response to Turkey’s conditions for improved relations, ministers were divided over the renewal of Turkish work visas. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour seconded Lieberman’s stance on deporting the workers suggesting that once cooperative contracts with Turkey were cancelled, they could be replaced by workers from other nationalities. However, Ehud Barak expressed opposition to this warning that it would send a negative signal to the Turkish leadership which could further heighten tensions and make reconciliation difficult.
On a similar note, Israel’s economics ministry is scheduled to convene within the next few days to decide on whether to extend work visas for Turkish employees given that the Israeli visas currently held by Turks were issued under former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in accordance with a security agreement between the two countries’ defence ministries.
In light of the tensions that have overshadowed Turkish-Israeli relations, Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon, oppose apologising to Turkey over the Israeli attack the Turkish Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, which was part of Freedom Flotilla I that aimed to break the siege on Gaza.