Israeli security cabinet approves reconciliation with Turkey

Jerusalem: Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday approved the rapprochement agreement with Turkey, despite objections from top ministers and public criticism. The agreement, officially signed on Tuesday, normalises ties between the former allies after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla in 2010 strained their relations, Xinhua news agency reported. The security cabinet, Israel's top decision-making forum on security issues, approved the deal with three out of its 10 ministers voting against it. The newly appointed Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is Our Home"), Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both from the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home, voted against the deal. Families of missing Israeli civilians, who were killed in Gaza during Israel's 2014 offensive against the enclave, told the media they were "disappointed" with the decision. They demanded the return of the bodies of their loved ones be part of the deal. The agreement will soon go to the Turkish Parliament for a vote, where it is expected to pass. With the deal approved, the two countries will exchange ambassadors in the upcoming months. They also plan to begin talks over gas exports from Israel to Turkey. Israel and Turkey, once close allies, suspended diplomatic ties and cooperation after Israeli commandos killed ten Turkish activists who sailed to the Gaza Strip to protest the Israeli-imposed blockade in May 2010. Under the agreement, Israel will pay $20 million in damages, and allow Turkey to carry out humanitarian projects in Gaza. Turkey would pass a bill that would not allow citizens to sue Israeli soldiers who took part in the raid, and relinquished its demand for Israel to remove its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since 2007.