In an interview with Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, touched on a wide range of topics including Israel’s relationship with Turkey and security threats in the region.
Palmor was asked by the newspaper whether an apology from Israel was the key to a diplomatic reset between the two countries, replying, “I think this is way over-emphasized and is given a wrong place in the general scheme of events that would lead us to reconciliation. The question is not the apology. The real question is, does the Turkish government want to normalize its relations with Israel?” But Palmor didn’t voice optimism, saying that Israel doesn’t “understand what motivates the Turkish government. We would know more if the Turkish government agreed to engage in some kind of dialogue.”
Pushed on the blockade of Gaza, Palmor pushed back, stating that “The term blockade does not correspond at all to the situation in Gaza, because any non-military material can go in,” adding that Israel had no choice in imposing the blockade. “If Hamas had not declared war with Israel this would not be the case. Restrictions at the border are purely for security and due to the policies of Hamas.”
One of the few things Israel and Turkey have been able to see eye to eye on in recent years is Syria. Though Turkey has been much more vocal in its criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Palmor says each country has a mutual interest in the outcome.
“We all have an interest in seeing a stable rational government in power in Damascus. A government not controlled by extremists. This is in everyone’s interest. Stability on the border is in everyone’s interest,” he told Hurriyet.
But he added that if other countries try to intervene militarily in the civil war in Syria Israel will not be counted among them. “We don’t have any pretext to [militarily] intervene in what is going on in Syria. Nobody wants us to do that and we don’t want to do that. We stay on the sidelines, except where our vital security interests are threatened. We reserve our right to limited intervention.”
Palmor also expressed his concerns that the sectarian conflict could be drawn out and that power good be usurped by parties not friendly to Israel. “The ‘Somalization’ of Syria is a great concern,” he said, referring to Somalia, a country widely regarded as a failed state run by rival militias and warlords. “We hope that this war ends as quickly as possible, with a central power emerging that will rule all Syria for the benefit of its own people and its neighbors. But until we reach that phase there will be many ups and downs, including the empowerment of extremists in certain areas of Syria, and perhaps with advanced weapons in their hands.”