Obama gets diplomatic win with Netanyahu apology to Turkey

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized Friday for a 2010 military operation that left eight Turks and one American dead — a major diplomatic breakthrough for President Obama on his final day in Israel.

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In his first call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the May 31 operation against protesters trying to force the blockade against Gaza, Netanyahu acknowledged “operational mistakes.” Erdoğan accepted his apology, according to a senior administration official. 

Obama discussed the incident during his meetings with Netanyahu in Jerusalem this week, an administration official said. Netanyahu made the call from the airport just before Obama took off for Jordan and, at one point, the president got on the phone.

“The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security,” Obama said in a statement. “I am hopeful that today's exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities.”

One U.S. official described the calls as a “first step” toward normalizing relations between Israel and Turkey, two democratic states and crucial U.S. allies in an unstable part of the world. 

The call is seen as a major diplomatic breakthrough for Obama, who has sought to minimize the fall-out from the flotilla incident for the past three years in an effort to stop the international consensus against Iran's nuclear program and other regional crises from unraveling.