The price of an apology

Before Israel expresses regret for the flotilla affair, it must consider what it would get in return.

The Turkish planes sent to assist in putting out the Carmel fires earlier this month presented an opportunity for both governments to open a new chapter in our strained relations thus far. Our ties deteriorated continuously until the flotilla incident, after which contact was all but cut off and each leadership stepped up the rhetoric.
The assistance was indeed a surprising gesture from a country that was considered as drifting away, and it opened new channels of communication.
But the question remains how can we be right and smart – right in our stance that the violence was aimed at our soldiers who were forced to respond, and smart in recognizing the importance of ties with Turkey and the political direction its leadership is taking.
The flotilla incident might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it came after a long, consistent decline in our relations – a decline that was lead by Ankara.
Turkey’s decision to pull away from its regional ally was deliberate and strategic, and the events on May 31 were part and parcel of the implementation of that decision.
Today, in attempts to repair our ties, we must ask ourselves, what is the price we are willing to pay and what do we expect in return? Acknowledging the tragedy in which nine people met their deaths and paying reparations to their families is one thing.
Apologizing for killing them is something else entirely. Furthermore, if we admit that our soldiers committed a wrong, we would be endangering those soldiers, their well-being and their freedom of movement in the world.
The alliance of mutual interests on which relations were based for the past several decades started to unravel not because of Israel, but first and foremost because of the change of direction by the Turkish leadership. Today, Turkey must decide between Europe and the West and Iran and Syria. If it chooses the West, then Israel-Turkey interests would remain intact, but if not, if it aligns itself with the leprous Iran-Syria axis, it would not help in rebuilding ties.
Today, Israel must first be smart; it must be the one holding out its hand in a peace offering, acknowledging the pain of the families of those who died on the flotilla. But we must remember the goal behind this expression of sorrow.
Will we receive warm relations and wide cooperation in return? Or will we go back to the cold ties that existed on the eve of the flotilla incident? Is there a place for Israel on Turkey’s map of interests where it seeks rapprochement with the West? Or will Israel continue being a target for the hatred of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his friends, a strategy intended to win Turkey the title of the leader of the Muslim world.
We must take these questions into consideration before we take steps from which there is no going back. It is worthwhile to try to mend relations with Turkey, but an expression of regret and compensation must not be made without getting in return a Turkish understanding that it must be at the forefront of the West’s battle with radical Islam and not the other way around.
The writer is chairwoman of the Kadima Knesset faction.