Turkey will put on trial four senior Israeli military commanders in what the Israeli government believes to be a “show trial” and a parade of “political theatre”. The commanders will be dealt with in absentia while the Istanbul court prosecutor seeks 18,000-year sentences for each of the men.
The trial cae two years after Israeli commandos dropped in on a Turkish aid boat in international waters killing nine Turkish activists on board the vessel.
The Mavi Marmara was one of six ships en route to Gaza in an attempt to breach the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the Gaza territory. More than 500 pro-Palestinian activists were on board, many of who the Israeli government believed to have had strong links with the Hamas, the islamist faction which controls the strip.
The dispute remains controversial. As always it brings up the question of Israel and Palestine – who struck first and whose fault is it really. For one reason or another this question almost always appears to come up when dealing with matters related to Israel.
Israel insists its commandos acted in self-defence after they came under attack by the activists. The UN, with the help of Turkish translation services, found Israeli troops were faced with serious organised and violent resistance when they boarded the ship. Shortly afterwards the UN issued another statement denouncing the Israeli use of force on board the ship characterising it as excessive and unreasonable.
This incident undoubtedly led to a major rift in relations between Turkey and Israel, two countries which once used to be staunch allies. Turkey has since demanded an apology and compensation for the victims’ families from the Israeli government however the Israeli embassy in Ankara refused to do so, issuing a message of remorse instead.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently promised to visit Gaza in the near future which could worsen the political and diplomatic situation between the two countries as it would give Hamas a significant political boost.
The four on trial are Ashkenazi; Eliezer Marom, former commander of the Israeli navy; Amos Yadlin, former commander of the air force; and Avishai Levy, former head of air force intelligence. Five hundred people from 37 countries including a former US Army colonel and retired official of the US State Department are expected to give evidence.