Right of Reply: An apology would be a good start

Israel so preoccupied with who should stay in power in Turkey, that they cannot read what is really happening in Turkish domestic politics

mavi marmara 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
mavi marmara 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
The Jerusalem Post recently published an article by Jonathan Schanzer entitled “An Israeli apology may just deepen the rift with Turkey” (December 23) which stands out as a shallow and one-sided analysis of the current nature of Turkish-Israeli relations in general, and Turkish domestic politics, the Mavi Marmara incident and Israeli politics in particular. The article in its entirety is an attempt to hamper any efforts to salvage Turkish-Israeli relations in the near future by discouraging anyone who aims to do so.
Schanzer firstly argues that only Binyamin Netanyahu and his advisers support the idea of apologizing to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara deaths. Not only does he repeat exclusively Israeli allegations about the flotilla organizers (they were terrorists, wielding weapons), he also concludes that the IDF soldiers were vindicated based on the highly edited videos released by the IDF.
Putting the blame almost entirely on the current AKP government in Turkey, Schanzer asserts that an apology to Turkey actually strengthens the AKP government in the upcoming elections in 2011. Since rapprochement between Turkey and Israel is an impossibility if the AKP remains in power, an apology that would strengthen its rule would also deepen the rift.
Schanzer expects us to fall – without questioning – into his presuppositions, even indictments about the Mavi Marmara incident and the current Turkish government. Far from what he and other hasbara professionals claim and regardless of how Israel views the council, the UN Human Rights Council’s flotilla report documented what actually happened aboard the Mavi Marmara. According to the report, there is clear evidence to support prosecutions for the following crimes within the terms of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, torture and inhuman treatment and willful killing, among others. The report further confirmed that no weapons were brought on board the ship.
ALMOST ALL reports and eyewitness accounts, except for those released by the IDF, demonstrate that Israel is far from being vindicated for the deaths of civilians in international waters. International institutions do not care that Israel does not care about them, and Israel will not be vindicated on this incident only because Schanzer says so.
His contention that Netanyahu is willing to apologize represents one of his more innocent misreadings. Netanyahu, a highly populist politician who follows the currents in Israeli public opinion closer than Schanzer, would not ponder upon apologizing to Turkey while the Israeli public seems to be strongly against it, as it is right now. Taking only domestic politics into account, this would mean political suicide, and Netanyahu is smarter than Schanzer gives him credit for. Turkey-bashing is a goose that lays golden eggs for Israeli politicians at the moment, and none of them would be willing to kill that goose.
As for the impossibility of rapprochement as long as the AKP stays in power, do hasbara archives have any remnants of the rapprochement in 2005 and 2008, surprisingly during the AKP rule? Have they deleted all the news items on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Jerusalem and his photos shaking hands with Ariel Sharon, a highly controversial figure in Turkey? Did they completely cut the direct communication line between Erdogan and Olmert established during the Israeli-Syrian talks sponsored by Turkey in 2008?
The Israeli government and its friends are so preoccupied with determining who should stay in power in Turkey, that they cannot read what is really happening in Turkish domestic politics. It is arguably true that Erdogan’s criticism of Israel is highly supported by Turkish society. However, the support does not emanate from the fact that Erdogan criticizes Israel. People support him because he stands up against an injustice, and as long as he continues to do so, he will keep broadening his constituency and stay in power.
Therefore, whether Israel apologizes or not, the AKP will have little to gain from an apology.
So the magical solution is as follows: If the Israeli government really wants to curb Erdogan’s ability to garner support by speaking up against Israel and salvage relations with Turkey, it should seriously consider stopping the injustices it inflicts upon the Palestinians and apologize and compensate for the injustice it committed on board the Mavi Marmara. An apology would be a good start.
The writer is a fellow at Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Ankara.