Turkish ties (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 05/30/12)
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The decision this week by Istanbul’s Seventh Criminal Court to seek
prison terms totaling over 18,000 years for four former IDF
commanders may or may not have been timed to coincide with the second
anniversary of the May 31 Mavi Marmara debacle. But many have used
the occasion of the indictment – and the anniversary of the incident –
to argue that the time has come to apology to the Turks.
New York University’s Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international
relations and a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post, made such a
recommendation in an oped that appeared in the Turkish daily
Hurriyet. Ben-Meir claimed that “Turkey has repeatedly reaffirmed
that once Israel apologizes, Ankara will resume full diplomatic
In addition, according to a Channel 10 news report, Vice Premier
Shaul Mofaz supports apologizing to the Turks, thus strengthening the
position held by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence
Agencies Minister Dan Meridor.
The US has reportedly relaunched an effort to convince Israel to
reconsider apologizing to Turkey, encouraged by Mofaz’s strengthening
of the apologist camp in the government and by the fact that the
broad government coalition cannot be toppled by Yisrael Beytenu’s
Avigdor Liberman, a strong opponent of apologizing to Turkey.
But will an apology truly improve Israel’s relations with Turkey?
Last July ahead of the release of the UN-appointed Palmer
Commission’s report – which found that Israel had every legal
justification for enforcing a naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled
Gaza Strip, though the IDF was taken to task for using excessive
force – a concerted effort spearheaded by the US, attempted to
resolve the tension between Jerusalem and Ankara.
To pacify the Turks, the US would see to it that the Palmer report
would be buried. In addition, the Turks demanded that Israel
apologize for the incident and pay compensation to the families of
the nine people who were killed when IDF commandos raided the Mavi
Israel also was expected to lift its blockade of Gaza.
In exchange, the Turks agreed to refrain from bringing legal claims
against the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara or against the
officers and political leaders who sent them, and resolve the
conflict with Israel.
For its part, Israel was willing to express “regret” over the
incident and provide monetary compensation. But Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Liberman refused to issue an official apology
or lift the naval blockade.
As a result, the deal fell through and the Palmer report was
published. In response, Ankara downgraded its diplomatic relations
At the time, this paper supported the government’s decision not to
cave in to Turkish demands. Doing so would have been interpreted as a
sign of weakness.
Agreeing to lift the blockade would only encourage future attempts to
use diplomatic pressure to influence Israeli policies. And a full
apology would also be a disservice to IDF soldiers and military
Finally, an Israeli apology – without any recognition on the part of
the Turks that by allowing the Mavi Marmara to set sail from their
shores, they were also responsible for the debacle – might be
interpreted as an admission of guilt.
Obviously, if the Turks had really been interested in improving
relations with Israel they would have – “If you don’t want to marry,
ask for a large dowry,” says a Ladino expression.
And even if Israel had apologized, it is highly unlikely that Ankara
would fully normalize relations. Doing so would hurt its standing in
the Muslim world. In contrast, taking a tough stand against Israel is
an easy way of currying Muslim favor, both inside Turkey and
throughout the region.
It is naïve to believe that if only Israel were to apologize for the
Mavi Marmara raid, relations with Turkey would return to normal.
True, Israel might score a small diplomatic victory by apologizing
and proving to the world that it is Turkish intransigence and
radicalism – not an Israeli refusal to apologize – that are the real
obstacles to normalization.
But Israel also has an obligation to itself to maintain a modicum of
self-respect and deterrence power. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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