Israeli Security Cabinet Approves Turkey Reconciliation Agreement

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked voted against the deal.The Israeli security cabinet approved the reconciliation agreement with Turkey by a vote of seven to three on Wednesday afternoon. 

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked voted against the deal. The remaining ministers, Yoav Galant, Yuval Steinitz, Arye Dery, Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon and Yisrael Katz, voted in favor.  

Lieberman attended only half the meeting, leaving a note behind with his vote against the agreement. 

Two ministers at the meeting told Haaretz the debate lasted more than four hours and was one of the most serious and in depth sessions ever held by the current cabinet.

Several ministers expressed their anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for holding the debate only after the agreement had already been signed, without any possibility of making any changes.

Bennett said the compensation deal for Turkish victims of the 2010 Israeli military raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla set a dangerous precedent that would hurt Israel down the line. He compared the compensation to the Jibril deal of the 1980s, when Israel released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in a swap for three soldiers captured in Lebanon.

Ze'ev Elkin, who attended the meeting only as an observer, said that had he been eligible to vote he would have supported the deal.

On Tuesday, a senior official in Jerusalem said there was uncertainty in the prime minister's bureau over whether the deal would be approved. The official said that a few  ministers were weighing political considerations over the diplomatic and security considerations with regard to the agreement.

"A large part of the ministers know that this deal is good, but they're scared they'll be called leftists," the senior official said.

Ministers received a copy of the rapprochement announced on Monday, along with the accompanying letter in which Turkey commits to help bring an end to the case of the missing Israelis in Gaza. 

In the letter, Sinirlioğlu states that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered all relevant government institutions to make any and all efforts possible to bring an end to the issue of the Israelis missing in Gaza for humanitarian reasons. The letter specifies that the promised efforts on Turkey's behalf regarding the missing Israelis is not a part of the agreement but a separate show of good will.

During Wednesday's meeting, Netanyahu convinced some of the ministers, including Dery and Kahlon, to support the agreement by promising to set up a ministerial team that would deal with efforts to return two Israelis missing in Gaza and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the enclave in the 2014 war.The team would work alongside Lior Lotan, the prime minister’s coordinator for prisoners-of-war and missing persons. 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that his "heart goes out to the Goldin and Shaul families," referring to parents of soldiers killed in a 2014 war but whose remains have not yet been recovered for burial.

Erdan said he met with these families this past week "and heard their complaints. I promised them I would ask tough questions at the cabinet session before making a decision. And so I did.

"My heart also goes out the family of Avera Mengistu who is still being held in Gaza," he said, referring to a mentally ill man who went missing after crossing the border into Gaza apparently of his own volition in September 2014. "We ought to do a lot more to bring these boys  home."

Ilan Mengistu, Avera's brother, said after the cabinet approved the agreement that "the ministers should be ashamed of themselves," accusing them of capitulating to political pressure. He said his family intends continue the fight to bring his brother home. 

Barak Ravid

Haaretz Correspondent


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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

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