How Turkey views Israel’s apology

As a result of rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, efforts will be stepped up for Israel, isolated in the Mideast after the Arab Spring

Thanks Erdogan for Israel apology billboards 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
Thanks Erdogan for Israel apology billboards 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
The apology took its time coming, and the peoples of Israel and Turkey heard it unexpectedly. With amazement.
Immediately in the wake of the communist terror organization, one of Turkey’s greatest problems over the last 30 years, speaking of “wanting peace.” At a time when everyone was constantly making comments regarding Turkish domestic policy.
Then news of an apology came in the midst of all that activity. Amazement and a deep silence caused by that amazement prevailed.
The Turkish people did not know what to make of it. Those who had long desired an improvement in relations could not at first believe it. They held their breath and began waiting, saying, “We just hope it is true.”
Those who make a living out of tragedy were looking at a development that in no way squared with their plans. They could neither criticize the situation, nor Israel. Since they had for long been contracting out a hatred of Israel, this apology definitely did not agree with their plans.
Such moments are rare in diplomacy. Virtues such as apology and forgiveness are rarely encountered in diplomacy. That is why such moments linger in memory more than wars and slaughter in politics. Because these moments are generally turning points.
Israel and Turkey are key countries, not just for the Middle East, but for the whole Arab- Islamic community, as far as America, and for countries of Europe and North Africa. It is not only America that is aware of this, but also Egypt, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, China, Iraq and many others.
While the silence has begun to lift in the wake of the shock of the apology in Turkey, and from what I can tell in Israel, too, some people have looked back and begun examining the subject of the Mavi Marmara. What a great loss of time! Most are unaware that a hundred years of calculations are changing. They are unaware that this great alliance will change the world.
What a waste of time! What questions are being asked? And what will change? “An apology has been made, but relations will never be like they were before.” This is a grave error. Apologizing sends a message of friendship. It is not like international agreements. It is another way for friends to say, “I want to remain friends.” Things are different in a togetherness based on friendship. When circumstances require togetherness, both sides grasp the importance of unity based on love, instead of military treaties and intermediaries. That is the situation Israel and Turkey are in. The two countries have always been friends. The only thing that has changed is that circumstances have reminded them that this friendship is even more important now.
“Erdogan will fear losing the friendship of Arab countries and will not establish a rapprochement with Israel.” This is the second error. It is true that relations between Arab countries and Turkey have grown still further of late. But that is not because of poor relations with Israel; it stems from the uncertainty caused by the Arab Spring and the need for the Turkish model. Turkey is currently very successfully applying a model of secular Islam that peoples and even administrations in Arab countries regard with envy. At this point, everything that Turkey does will be a model.
Including rapprochement with Israel. We will soon see the fruits of this in relations between Egypt and Israel, which have suffered a setback because of the Morsi administration. Drawing strength from Turkey, the Morsi administration will see no reason not to draw closer to Israel.
“The Iranian threat.” The greatest shield against the Iran of Khamenei, who says, “In the event of a threat of a military operation we will have no qualms about destroying Tel Aviv and Haifa,” is of course the NATO missile shield on Turkish territory. They are completely under Turkish control. Of course Turkey would have protected Israel against such a threat with that shield. There is no doubt about that. But the important thing is for this to now be put on an official footing and for Iran to have no doubts about that.
Another thing to say about Iran is that, just like Egypt, Iran has suffered from the actions of the terrorist separatist organization that makes use of Kurdish nationalism on its own territory and will never want to impair relations with Turkey. Iran regards the stability that has begun being established in Southeast Turkey as a significant guarantee for itself. After this, good relations with Turkey will inevitably require no worsening in relations with Israel.
Let us move on to Syria.
Regarding Syria, we need to talk about Russia more than Bashar Assad. Russia does not want an enemy in the region. That is not its problem. Russia simply wants a guarantee. Russian President Vladimir Putin lost his Eastern Mediterranean base in Libya with the fall of the Gaddafi regime, and is unwilling to renounce his second base in the Syrian port of Tartus. He does not want to see his ally Syria come under the control of the West or of radicals. That is why a state with which Russia enjoys good relations, such as Turkey, needs to act as a powerful guarantor.
It is clear what a great guarantee an alliance between Turkey, Israel and Egypt could provide for Russia. A new administration under the control of that alliance would inevitably suit Russia, and the Syrian problem will disappear.
This will also be the greatest reassurance for Israel, which is worried about “whose hands will the weapons fall into?” As a result of rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, efforts will be stepped up for Israel, isolated in the Middle East after the Arab Spring, to enjoy security; for the Jewish lobby in the US to soften its stance toward Turkey; for wide-ranging developments in trade, military agreements and tourism; for Turkey to agree Israeli participation in NATO exercises; and for a Muslim country such as Turkey to be a shield against the anti-Semitic talk that has become fashionable, especially in the Muslim world.
Unity between Turkey and Israel can influence the world.
What needs to be taken on board for this to happen is the words of those who believe in love and look to a bright future, not those of the prophets of doom, those who wish to see humiliation and hatred. There are many people in this world who regard humiliating others, anger and dishonorable behavior as a virtue. And it is clear that politicians act in a sensitive balance.
Rational people need to act with an eye to the future, in a positive and reasonable manner.
We civil society organizations in Turkey have believed in this.
Despite the recent strong tensions in recent years, we have welcomed our Israeli friends into our homes and together broadcast messages of friendship.
Despite the endeavors of those who seek to spread anti-Semitism, we have always expressed love for the Jewish people. We have determinedly explained that this and affection are the essence of Islam. The positive effect of this in the process cannot be ignored. For years now, a great many people in Turkey have been unhappy at the poor relations with the Israelis because of this effective and intensive loving activity. A silent but profound sense of joy currently prevails for this reason. Even writers known for their antipathy to Israel have suddenly begun adopting a positive tone.
The rest is up to us. If we have been hurt by the threats and killing around us, then we have an obligation to speak in a way that will keep friendship alive. We must not forget that out greatest need is psychological. And we must not forget that it is lovelessness and seeing no friends around that make the world like this.
Politicians have done their bit.
The rest is now up to the peoples of Turkey and Israel.
The writer is a commentator and religious and political analyst on Turkish TV and also a peace activist. She is the executive producer and a host of the Building Bridges Show and writes as an oped column for The Washington Post, Moment Magazine, Islam- Online, Gulf Daily News and Haber Hilal in Turkey. Her Facebook page: