On Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave the green light to Turkey to complete construction on a hospital in Gaza, which it began building in 2011 by smuggling materials through illegal tunnels. The hospital will be run jointly by Turks and Palestinians. Ya’alon’s permission grants Turkey the right to transfer 500 trucks of building materials and 70 trucks of electrical and communications equipment into the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
This gesture suggests that recent reports in the Turkish press according to which normalization with Israel is soon to resume are accurate. Indeed, for the past few days, Turkish newspapers have referred to a number of developments indicating that the four-year break in relations between Jerusalem and Ankara is on the brink of a resolution.
Ties between Turkey and Israel were severed in 2010, when a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla with armed pro-Palestinian activists was intercepted by Israeli commandos. In the ensuing fray, during which the young IDF soldiers were viciously attacked with various types of weapons, nine activists were killed. Turkey never took responsibility for its part in the incident. Israel, on the other hand, has continued to try to repair the damage. At the behest of US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu even issued a personal apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, and has been negotiating a compensation package for the families of those killed during the raid.
Erdogan keeps upping the ante, however, not only demanding greater sums of money than Israel originally agreed to, but setting as a precondition for a settlement that the siege on his terrorist buddies on Gaza be lifted. Nevertheless, Netanyahu has not rescinded his offer to pay compensation – a misnomer for acts of self-defense – due ostensibly to reasons of regional realpolitik.
THIS HAS not been working in Israel’s favor. Turkey under Erdogan has become increasingly hostile to its former ally. And it has a lot more to gain from good relations with the Jewish state than the other way around. In fact, after a four-year hiatus, Israelis are starting to plan vacations to Turkey again. This is a source of great revenue for the Turkish tourism industry, because Israelis spend lots of cash when they go abroad. Nobody is more keenly aware of this than Turkish shopkeepers.
And yet, the showing of Erdogan’s AK (Justice and Development) Party in Sunday’s local election is more likely to vindicate his anti-Israel stance than soften it. Such is Erdogan’s version of regional realpolitik – rather different from that of his Israeli counterpart.
And Netanyahu knows it.
This may be why the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office was quick to deny claims in the Turkish media, as well as those of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday, that, as part of a nearly done reconciliation deal, Israel had agreed to pay $21 million in compensation fees; that the embassies in both countries were on the verge of reopening for business; and that Erdogan was mulling a visit to Israel in the coming months. Given Ya’alon’s official okay for the transfer of Turkish goods into Gaza, this denial is not terribly plausible.
But this isn’t the worst aspect of the characteristically imbalanced negotiations between Israel and this, or any other, Islamic neighbor. Far more appalling is the fact that, while the current one-sided deal is being forged, Turkey is going full speed ahead with its prosecution of Israeli military figures connected with the Mavi Marmara raid.
Indeed, the eighth hearing in the kangaroo-court trial against former chief of IDF general staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former commander of the navy Vice-Admiral Eli Marom, former air force commander Major-General Amos Yadlin and former head of air force intelligence Avishay Levi just got underway in Istanbul.
These four high-ranking officers were put on trial for murder (!) in November 2012, in absentia. If convicted, the prosecution will seek 18,000-year sentences for them.
In other words, no matter what meetings are taking place “behind the scenes” between Israeli and Turkish negotiators, and regardless of Israeli concessions geared at ending a crisis of Turkey’s making, Israel gets nothing out of the whole mess but further condemnation.
Talk about being a turkey.
The writer is the author of
To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’
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