Despite claims by Turkish officials about vetoing Israel's participation in major NATO summit, a senior U.S. official says the alliance never intended to invite Israeli leaders.
The two Middle Eastern countries have been feuding for two years since Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ship delivering aid to the Gaza strip, killing nine on board. U.S. officials have acknowledged Turkey, a NATO member, has blocked activities between Israel and the alliance since the May 2010 incident. Turkey wants a formal apology from Israeli leaders, who say that simply is not going to happen.
The list of blocked actions, however, does not include Israel's absence from NATO's upcoming summit in Chicago, says Phillip Gordon, a senior State Department official.
"There is some misconception about this issue. NATO had not envisioned inviting Israel to the Chicago summit," says Gordon, noting Israel, like other non-member nations, is a NATO partner. "The Chicago Summit was never going to [include] a single meeting of all those partnerships and alliance, as a simple matter of logistics and time. There was no ... particular invitation to Israel for Turkey to block. That's just not accurate."
Any misconceptions seem linked to the words of senior Turkish leaders.
"There will be no Israeli presence at the NATO meeting unless they issue a formal apology and pay compensation for the Turkish citizens their commandos killed in international waters," a senior Turkish official late last month told the Daily News, a Turkish newspaper. "There are demands from us for the removal of our veto, but this is out of question."
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican who sits on the upper chamber's Foreign Relations Committee, says the chilly Turkish-Israeli relationship "doesn't bode well for the relationship between Israel and NATO."
Gordon says U.S. officials have pressed their Turkish counterparts that "no country should bring bilateral disputes into the alliance."