The rightness of the path

For the state to apologize for their actions means it has abandoned them, turned them from warriors who risked their lives in the defense of the state into guilty parties.

Thanks Erdogan for Israel apology billboards 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
Thanks Erdogan for Israel apology billboards 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
After the Six Day War, Yitzhak Rabin gave what will be remembered as his “Rightness of the Path” speech, in which he paid tribute to the IDF’s moral conduct during the war, conduct which he said “begins with the spirit and ends with the spirit.”
Israeli soldiers’ sacrifices and brotherhood were not the result of militancy, according to Rabin, but arose from their knowledge that their cause was just, and awareness of their role: “To ensure the existence of the nation in its homeland.”
Throughout history it has been proven time and again that victory, whether political or on the battlefield, is achieved by those whose belief in the rightness of their path is stronger, those with the deep conviction that they are doing the right thing, those that are fighting for the greater cause. Many countries have lost wars for the want of such conviction, even though they had superior military strength.
This happened in Israel’s War of Independence, when the small Jewish Yishuv beat the Arab armies; it also happened in Vietnam, where the US suffered severe losses due to domestic disagreement with regard to the war’s justification. This is the principal reason for my objection to Israel’s apology to Turkey.
If it is detrimental to the Israeli people’s basic sense of righteousness and morality, such an apology, no matter how much it seems to be in the country’s immediate political interest, inflicts long-term damage outweighing the short-term benefits.
The soldiers who risked their lives on behalf of the State of Israel on the Mavi Marmara deserve better.
For the state to apologize for their actions means it has abandoned them, turned them from warriors who risked their lives in the defense of the state into guilty parties. Israel’s willingness to pay compensation sends the message that fighting terrorist groups sent to harm the country is not morally justified.
For the nation and its soldiers to be sent such a message by their leadership is devastating to Israel’s long-term survival.
On the diplomatic level, we must recall that the deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey did not begin with the Marmara or the humiliation of Turkish ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol. The deterioration began much earlier, and was due to ideological and strategic decisions made by the current Turkish leadership, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The first notable public expression of this occurred during the Olmert government, when Erdogan – at the Davos conference – dramatically walked off the stage after calling President Shimon Peres a “killer.”
Many other aggressive measures soon followed, including Turkish TV series portraying IDF soldiers as baby murderers and culminating in Erdogan calling Zionism racism and a crime against humanity during a speech in Vienna on March 1. Even now, after the Israeli apology and the “reconciliation,” Erdogan has not apologized for this statement. One cannot construe Erdogan’s casual statement to a Danish newspaper that his remarks were misunderstood as an apology or retraction, especially given his refusal to apologize to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a private conversation between the two.
I have said many times in the past, both in closed and public discussions, that I am willing to state that Israel regrets the deaths of Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara, in the same way the US expressed regret to Pakistan, despite the major differences between the two cases.
The US killed 24 Pakistani soldiers due to mistaken identity, while our soldiers were defending themselves against members of a terrorist organization (recognized as such in European countries including Germany and the Netherlands) who wanted to kill them and illegally breach Israel’s borders.
That Erdogan would not accept such an apology, together with the way Israel’s official apology was received and interpreted in newspapers in east Jerusalem and by the leadership in Gaza, Ramallah and Lebanon – as well as by Erdogan himself – attests to the importance of the difference.
Even more important is the way in which the Israeli apology was received by Greece, Cyprus, the Gulf states, the Kurds, and among the moderate and secular Turks. Their interpretation is that instead of cooperating with Israel, it is better to ignore Israel and deal directly with Erdogan and Davutoglu. It proves to them that they cannot rely on Israel and that they cannot cooperate with us on issues that are critical for us in terms of strengthening the moderates in the Middle East. This is longterm strategic damage the results of which we have yet to feel the full effects of.
In conclusion, it is important to me to repeat to the soldiers of the IDF what the prime minister told them at the end of a naval cadet course two years ago: “Israel is proud of you. We are proud of you.”
The author is chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.