Israeli and Turkish flags 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A famous Turkish saying draws a parallel between a relationship and a string ¬
when a string is cut, it says, it is always possible to tie it again, but there
is no way to avoid the knot.
If that is the path Turkey chooses to take
when it comes to Israel, Israel is in big trouble. But Turkey won't gain much
from the conflict, either.
The Mavi Marmara
affair was dubbed "The
9/11 of Israeli-Turkish relations," a term used to portray the shock coming from
Ankara after the incident. Despite all precautions, the Turks never dreamed the
flotilla would turn out the way it did.
The death of nine Turkish
citizens from IDF-fire was taken as if it were a declaration of war. Ankara was
furious and made the Marmara
incident a dead end for relations with
Israel, unless the latter bowed and apologized. In addition, the Turks
complained about extensive information leaks in Israel (e.g. the reports that
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had initially intended to
Israel should have more carefully observed the importance the
Turks attributed to the incident and its effect on bilateral ties. It should
have also kept in mind two main things: 1. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the AKP government are only part
of the problem. Turkish society must be taken into consideration as
The responses following the Marmara
raid were similar in all
segments of Turkish society, creating a growing wave of criticism against
True, the AKP's 2011 election campaign was "Hedef
("Aim: 2023"; Erdogan believes his government will still be ruling when the
Turkish Republic celebrates its 100th anniversary), but no one can guarantee
How can Israel regain the Turks' friendship the day after Erdogan?
2. In the unusual diplomacy of the Middle East, why does Jerusalem ignore the
art of pragmatism ¬ especially when it can look to the great Turkish example?
Why haven't we learned from Erdogan how to negotiate and twist reality to
satisfy our own needs and interests? Some believe that especially in this
region, apologizing means humiliation, submission and a blow to "national
pride." But the Turks' famous pragmatism, anchored in their days as an empire,
has done them only good. Why would Israel be interested in making it easier on
Erdogan, who had already called to lower the level of diplomatic relations in
the past? Why should Israel give up on the staggering $2.6 billion the two
nations exchange in trade every year? Why fall into the Turkish prime minister's
trap instead of learning from his tactics? Israel must play a new, sharp,
calculated game of diplomacy and let Turkey act first.
While Israel might
emerge as the greater loser here, Turkey will not carry the day, either. There
has been domestic criticism accompanied by heated rhetoric ¬ coming especially
from the opposition party CHP ¬ regarding the AKP's decision, claiming that
Erdogan's "zero-problem policy" is not proving itself on one hand, and that the
price, on the other hand, is just too high.
Turkey's need for special
military equipment to combat the PKK terrorist organization ¬ equipment produced
and made in Israel ¬ is a concern for Ankara, as is losing trade and other
options. Its current problems with Syria, and the heated declarations against
Turkey from Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, do not make the "zero-problem policy"
more relevant to this region.
Since the AKP took control in Turkey, it
has been trying to persuade the world, especially the West, that it is possible
to be at once a democratic and a Muslim country, that Turkey has no plans to
become "a second Iran" and that it can mediate between East and West. After
downgrading the ties and threatening Israel with "extra measures," Turkey will
have to work harder on proving its "balanced policy" to us all.The
writer is a lecturer in Bar-Ilan University's Department of Middle Eastern
Studies and a research associate at the university's Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center
for Strategic Studies.