mavi marmara passengers 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
Ankara will accept nothing short of a public apology and full financial
compensation for the Mavi Marmara raid as a condition for improving diplomatic
relations with Jerusalem. That was the message sent out over the weekend by
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“No friendship of whatever kind
can overshadow the fact that Turkish citizens have been killed,” Davutoglu
noted, and went on to blame “conflicting signals” from Jerusalem for the current
diplomatic chill between the countries.
The foreign minister’s
allegations, fiercely and undiplomatically contested on Sunday by his
counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, are disingenuous. If Turkey truly wished to
resolve the ongoing tension between the countries over the Mavi Marmara
could do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect, sensitivity and trust. Instead,
Ankara has insisted that Israel issue a humiliating apology and provide
compensation in a way that might expose IDF soldiers to international legal
Tellingly, there has been no Turkish recognition of the brutal
violence perpetrated by so-called “peace activists” on board the Gaza-bound Mavi
seven months ago. Ankara has not been willing to admit that the IDF
soldiers who boarded the ship to enforce the naval blockade of Hamas-controlled
Gaza, which has become a base for terrorist activities against Israel, killed
the nine Turkish activists while defending themselves against iron bars and
other potentially lethal instruments.
The resolution demanded by Turkey
does not conform to the kind of terms demanded by friendly nations. And for all
of Israel’s genuine desire to heal relations with what was hitherto a vital
regional ally, meeting those terms would be self-defeating. Apparently, that is
AHEAD OF national elections slated for 2011, Turkey’s
ruling Islamic party, the AKP, seems to have an interest in capitalizing on
widespread anti-Israel sentiment among the more religious rural population which
makes up a large portion of its constituency. Hurriyet, a secular daily critical
of the AKP, has lamented this change in Turkish foreign policy, which has
brought it increasingly into the political orbit of Iran and Syria and their
proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah.
It hasn’t always been this way. After the
AKP’s rise to power in 2002, Turkey had initially sought to maintain the
relatively good relations fostered with Israel in 1993 after the signing of the
Turkey and Israel have common ground for
cooperation. They are the region’s only two democracies and have strong
secular political frameworks. The two countries’ defense forces were galvanized
by a perception of shared military threats from the dominant Arab states
surrounding them. Turkey even served as a mediator for indirect talks between
Israel and Syria.
But more recently, the change has been sharp. Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan fostered ties with Hamas, whose leader Khaled
Mashaal’s visit to Ankara in February 2006 was the first significant blow to
relations with Israel. In parallel, Turkey improved ties with Syria, as
symbolized by the scrapping of the visa regime between the two countries in
At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January
2009, Erdogan made a concerted effort to publicly distance his country from
ours. He exploited an appearance together with President Shimon Peres at the
gathering, which coincided with the end of Operation Cast Lead, to accuse Israel
of “barbaric attacks” and responsibility for “crimes against humanity” in Gaza,
storming off the stage in a theatric show of rancor.
government’s quasi-sponsorship of the Gaza flotilla, and the fallout since the
Mavi Marmara interception, merely mark an unfortunate confirmation of Ankara’s
ongoing policy of distancing from Israel while fostering closer ties with Iran
A beam of light was Turkey’s alacrity this month in sending
firefighting planes to help fight the Carmel blazes. But that beam was dimmed,
first when Erdogan made it bluntly clear that this aid should not be
misconstrued as a sign of Turkish recalibration on the Mavi Marmara
again this weekend when Davutoglu risibly claimed that Israel would not have
done the same for Turkey.
It is no wonder that high-ranking Israeli and
Turkish officials who met recently in Geneva failed to reach a reconciliatory
agreement. Finding an equitable resolution to the Mavi Marmara
not be beyond the skills of senior diplomats from our two countries, but it
would necessitate genuine mutual goodwill.
Sadly, Turkey’s entire
approach to the affair – itself an extension of its policy of solidarity with a
Hamas government that came to power through violence and rules Gaza through fear
– bespeaks anything but goodwill.
Contrary to what Davutoglu would have
us believe, the failure to resolve diplomatic tensions has nothing to do with
“conflicting signals” coming out of Jerusalem and everything to do with the
clear and grim signals emanating from Ankara.