Mavi Marmara Ten Years on: Final Nail in Coffin of Israel-Turkey Relations

Although israel later apologised for the incident that claimed the lives of nine Turkish nationals and one American and compensated the victims’ families, Tel Aviv-Ankara ties have never been able to get back on track, and doubts run high as to whether they can ever be repaired.

It was an operation by the Israeli Navy that widened the abyss between Tel Aviv and Ankara. Ten years ago, on 31 May, Israeli naval commandos boarded six civilian ships – carrying goods, school supplies, and building materials to Gaza – in an attempt to stop the vessels from reaching their destination, after earlier requests to reroute them fell on deaf ears.

They met no resistance until they boarded one ship, the Mavi Marmara, where 40 out of the 590 passengers clashed with the Israeli forces, reportedly using iron bars and knives. During that struggle, nine activists were killed, while another eventually succumbed to his injuries two years later. Ten Israeli soldiers were also hurt in the process.

Fatal Mistake

For Alon Liel, Israel’s former ambassador to Turkey, who at the time of the raid served as the director general of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tel Aviv’s conduct was a fatal mistake that “left deep scars”.

The damage was irreparable. Although relations between the two had soured long before Mavi Marmara, the raid in international waters was the final nail in the coffin of ties between Tel Aviv and Ankara.

Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador, demanded an apology, and…

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