... Shut up. Go back to Auschwitz!
... We’re helping Arabs go against the
US. Don’t forget 9/11, guys
– Radio transmission from the Gaza bound
flotilla in May 2010 in response to the Israel Navy’s warning that it was
entering an area under naval blockade Nothing could illustrate more graphically
the sentiments that prevailed aboard the Mavi Marmara than the invective hurled
by the “activists” at the Israeli naval forces charged with enforcing the
eminently legal and legitimate maritime quarantine of Gaza.
better corroborate the telling first-hand account by Turkish journalist Sefik
Dinç that the vessel carried a large number of Judeophobic Islamists spoiling
for martyrdom, than the joint evocation of Auschwitz and 9/11.
could make demands for an Israeli apology to Turkey look more absurd when voiced
by Ankara — or more shamefully self-demeaning when echoed by
Accepted international practice Of course there was no need for
the Palmer Report to know that the blockade of the terrorist haven in Gaza did
not contravene accepted international practice. A cursory visit to the official
US Navy website quickly corroborates that its special forces have conducted
hundreds of “noncompliant” boardings well outside US territorial waters, and
that similar operations are regularly “conducted by modern military and police
forces globally “ Just as with the Mavi Marmara, “These mission[s]... set the
conditions for security and stability in the maritime
complement the counterterrorism and security efforts [and]
disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for
attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.”
cordoning of Gaza was far more benign than the US-led, UN-sanctioned blockade of
Iraq. This embargo, imposed in 1990 by Security Council Resolution 661, had
humanitarian consequences far beyond anything remotely approaching those in
For almost decade a half, the prohibition on importing hundreds of
civilian items (including painkillers and pencils, according to Time magazine;
and hearing aids, musical instruments and shampoo, according to other sources)
inflicted misery on millions of Iraqi citizens, causing hundred of thousands of
civilian deaths including a dramatic increase in infant
Indeed, who can forget chilling response from he US’s then-UN
ambassador Madeleine Albright to a question from 60 Minutes’s Lesley Stahl,
regarding the consequences of the US-led sanctions against Iraq: “[H]alf a
million children have died... more than in Hiroshima... is the price worth it?”
Albright responded, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the... price is
Significantly, the remark, made in 1996, caused no public
outcry and proved no impediment to her later (unanimous) Senate approval as Bill
Clinton’s secretary of state.
Moreover, unlike the case of Gaza, where
the democratically elected Hamas theocracy regularly bombarded Israeli towns and
villages, and pronounced its resolve to eradicate the Jewish state, none of the
countries participating in the Iraq embargo had their populations directly
threatened by the Saddam-regime, nor was their destruction its declared
So while Israel’s blockade was directed against a terrorist
entity whose murderous enmity toward it enjoyed wide public endorsement by
Gazans, the sanctions against Iraq wrought havoc on a people in the grip of a
tyranny, which in pre-Arab- Spring realities, it was helpless to
But indignation leads me to digress.
What Turkey has
become While it is indisputable that ties with a secular, Westward-looking
Kemalist Turkey were of immense strategic value, they are unsustainable with an
Islamocratic, Eastward- looking post-Kemalist Turkey.
Several years ago I
co-authored an article with Gen. Cevik Bir, the former deputy chief-of-staff of
the Turkish armed forces and arguably the driving force behind the Turco-Israeli
nexus, analyzing the ties between the two countries. In the article we laid out
what was then widely considered to comprise the bedrock upon which the bilateral
ties were founded.
All the components of this bedrock have been eroded
The fundamental underpinning of the relationship was what The
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky termed “a common sense of otherness” felt
by two non-Arab, pro-Western states that set them apart from other counties in
their region. But today Turkey is no longer a Westward-looking, secular state.
It is seeking not only acceptance, but leadership in the Muslim world — now
increasingly pursued by means of a hostile, humiliating demeanor toward the
In the past both Turkey and Israel were targets of Syrian
hostility. Both had to contend with Damascus’s support of terror, territorial
claims and water demands. This perception of a shared threat was a strong
element cementing the relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem.
this no longer holds. Since 2003, with election of the AKP, Turco-Syrian
relations have improved dramatically and until recently were seen as strong,
even intimate. Although Bashar Assad’s slaughter of Syrian citizens has put a
strain on the bilateral relationship, it would be unrealistic to believe that
the perception of Syria as a common antagonist is likely to reappear to enhance
to bond between Turkey and Israel The Turkish military, which was the foundation
of the country’s secular civil society, the bulwark against its Islamization and
the linchpin of the relationship with Israel, has been gravely
In the past, it forced the resignation of the government of
Necmettin Erbakan, whose Welfare Party was the precursor to Recep Tayyip
Erdogan’s AKP, following an anti-Israel rally in Istanbul. With impressive
skill, resolve and daring, Erdogan, previously imprisoned and banned from
politics for life, has managed to greatly diminish the influence of the armed
forces with a purge of recalcitrant brass, arresting some for plotting rebellion
and forcing others to resign.
Today the military is a shadow of its
former self as a political force and it certainly cannot play the same role in
fostering relations with Israel.
Wimpiness, not wisdom The calls for
Israel to capitulate to Turkish coercive diplomacy in order to restore relations
with Ankara are not only shamefully servile, they are infantile.
they come from prominent opinion- makers in the Israeli media and academia, they
are deeply disturbing.
There is no longer a compelling confluence of the
strategic interests for Israel and Turkey. The perception of shared values and
common threats no longer exists.
For the foreseeable future, there will
be no way to resurrect the entente, with or without apologies, accommodation
We had better get used to the idea and strategize
accordingly. Nothing useful will result from waxing nostalgic over an
Suggestions by “oracles” such as Haaretz that such
prostrated submission be accepted as “a small price to pay for such a strategic
asset as relations with Turkey” are absurd, reflecting wimpiness, not
It is, at best, juvenile to believe that Turkey would restructure
its strategic interests depending on whether or not it received an unwarranted
apology. If Ankara ascribed strategic value to ties with Israel it would not
sacrifice them simply because such an apology was not forthcoming.
Shlomo Avineri typifies such misconceptions.
paternalism, he writes, “From their viewpoint, we killed nine Turkish citizens,”
and goes on to pontificate with misplaced self-righteousness: “It is therefore
important that Israel announce now that it is establishing a compensation fund
for the families of those killed – beyond the letter of the law.”
no! What should be conveyed to the Turks is our viewpoint, i.e., Israeli outrage
that the Turkish government facilitated the dispatch a gang of Judeocidal
extremists, to breach a legal naval blockade set up by a friendly power, and who
attempted to lynch members of our armed forces who were compelled to exercise
their legitimate right of self-defense.
Clearly any suggestion that
compensation be paid to families of the would-be murderers is offensive and
and likely to serve as a precedent opening the
floodgates for a tidal wave of claims for compensation for every unsavory
extremist virtuously dispatched to the hereafter by legitimate IDF
From Palmer to Palmerston This brings us to the Palmer
Commission, which also included a recommendation for compensation, and for
expressions of regret by Israel.
These misplaced proposals underscore
that the commission should never have been appointed in the first place, or at
least should have been given an entirely different mandate. For apart from
arriving at the eminently self-evident conclusion that Israel’s blockade did not
contravene international law and the IDF commandos had the right to defend
themselves, the commission criticized Israel for the use of force that was
“excessive and unreasonable.”
It would be intriguing to know just how the
folks on Palmer Commission would determine what force is “reasonable” when
trying to avoid being disemboweled by a frenzied lynch mob.
Of course the
real focus of an investigative commission pursuing political truth rather than
political correctness would not be the IDF interception of the Mavi Marmara
why the need to intercept it arose at all.
Indeed, the exigencies of good
governance should have dictated that Ankara itself launch an inquiry into the
events that led up to the incident, and into who was responsible for provoking
confrontation with an long-time ally that led to the deaths of its own
After all as Dinç points out, “The Turkish government, by not
preventing the incident, and the IHH, by insisting on entering Gaza, led to...
destabilizing the Middle East region again.”
The present government in
Ankara has no desire to repair its relations with Israel.
incident was not a reason for the rupture, merely a good excuse. The crude
-like harassment of Israelis at Istanbul airport this week
should dispel any doubts as to the true proclivities of the Erdogan
Israel must resign itself to the loss of Turkey as a strategic
ally – as it did with Iran.
The working assumption must be that Ankara
has taken a strategic decision to turn toward the Muslim world. Even a cursory
review of Edogan’s personal history should drive this home.
There may be
many reasons why Turkey changed direction — poor, corrupt governance by its
secular elites, repeated rejection of its EU accession bid. But whatever the
reason(s), Turkish reaction to the Mavi Marmara
incident is a reflection of, not
a reason for, this transformation.
Rather than mourn the loss, Israel
must begin to devise way to compensate for it.
It should find counsel and
comfort in the words of Lord Palmerston, to the House of Commons, in March 1848:
“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are
eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to
Accordingly, Israel must seek alternative alliances with other
actors on the international stage to offset the damage.
It will not be
easy, but neither is it impossible.
Ties with Romania and the Balkans
states including Greece, with Armenia and with the Kurds, who all have a
lessthan- felicitous relationship with the Turks, should be enhanced and
strengthened — while recognizing that they too are unlikely to continue
Assertive action in this direction would not only be
beneficial to Israel but would bring home to Ankara that ditching allies is not
cost-free — something that might become clearer next time its military tries to
buy advanced drones from its new pals such as Egypt or its civilians need urgent
assistance to cope with a major earthquake.
National honor as a strategic
assert Binyamin Netanyahu’s government should be largely commended for its
stance. It should not heed the calls of those who dismiss the value of national
honor (as long as that honor is Israel’s, not Turkey’s), and who advocate
servile supplication as a strategy. Israel would do well to recall Winston
Churchill’s stinging rebuke of British and French appeasement: “[They] had to
choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have
Even if the confrontation with Turkey does not go beyond the bounds
of a diplomatic war, the worst thing Israel can do is to cultivate an image of
weakness and submission.
Nothing would increase the chance of hostilities
more than reinforcing the classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jewish helplessness,
or cultivating the perception in the minds of friend and foe that the proud,
defiant Israeli has morphed into the craven, cringing Jew-boy.