Correct. And the absence of Israel in Chicago, as “another brick in the wall,” shows how annoying Turkish-Israeli relations have become -- so annoying that they threaten to spread into a lethal dispute in the eastern Mediterranean. No wonder Greek Cyprus loves all this. Interesting information lies in a recent report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on the bombing by the Turkish Air Forces of 34 Kurdish smugglers from Turkey at the end of December last year. The article, commendable for shedding more light on the incident, also has a different, important dimension: a possible Israeli (lobby) role in turning the US Congress against Turkey in the sale of armed Predators (US-operated aerial drones) by using as a (quite justified) argument what the WSJ article describes as the failures of good judgment and know-how on the part of the Turkish military. But the question remains whether the WSJ article can be linked to an Israeli frustration with having been blocked from the Chicago summit. Its timing certainly raises such doubts. Let this just hang there simply as a point. In an article for Haaretz, Oren takes the issue back to its roots, namely what the Turkish veto of Israel participation stems from.
“Erdoğan wants a simple thing from Israel: an apology,” he wrote. “Not an expression of sorrow, sympathy or any other form of diplomatic language. ... The Turkish boycott of Israel derives from the Gaza flotilla affair two years ago. And one shouldn’t dwell on whether this demand is justified. Erdoğan was hostile to Israel before the takeover of the ship the Mavi Marmara.” Then he goes on to explain, in detail, why the Israeli government failed to do so. “The solution is to use the dreaded word ‘apology’ while blurring the context. In coordination with the Turks and Americans, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Yossi Ciechanover to write a text whose twists and turns would suit both sides. Israel would ‘apologize for operational mistakes that it has already publicly admitted to.’ Defense Minister Ehud Barak has agreed to this wording, while Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and navy chief Ram Rothberg have no objection. Mossad head Tamir Pardo supports the move, and Netanyahu is convinced it’s necessary.
“And they all lived happily ever after? Well, not as long as Netanyahu fears the wrath of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Meanwhile, the Turks are hardening their stance, even thwarting Israel’s participation in a NATO meeting of top medical officers. Without Israel, Egypt and other countries can’t participate either, but at this point in time, they don’t really care.”
Well, I have only one crucial objection to Oren. It is his claim that “Erdoğan was hostile to Israel before the takeover of the ship the Mavi Marmara.” Not quite. For Amir to get it right (he does almost all the time about Turkey), let me replace the word “hostile” with “skeptical.”
It does have to with the person of Erdoğan. And, if we must speak about skepticism now turned into hostility, it all began with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the infamous operation Cast Lead. Until late 2008, although rather in doubt about Israel’s willingness for peace with Syria, Erdoğan was persuaded by his close circles that he be engaged intensely in an intermediary role in facilitating a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. He agreed and was in contact with Olmert a great many times in the autumn of 2008.
The two leaders met for hours in Ankara on Dec. 22. More than twice, Erdoğan grabbed the phone and called Beshar al-Assad to finalize the deal. The meeting lasted until late into the night. The deal was almost cut. As Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the National daily in the United Arab Emirates, there was only disagreement on one word. Erdoğan and Olmert decided to have a final talk on the phone at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, before the Israeli and Syrian leaders could declare they had agreed on a peace plan.
When Erdoğan was told minutes before the phone chat that the Israeli army had entered Gaza, he hit the roof. His rage was much more about the fact that Olmert had kept him completely uninformed about Cast Iron rather than the operation itself. He felt cheated by an “ally.” Olmert had refused to realize that Erdoğan, a man who is well-versed in street life, follows a simple code: Show respect and trust, be straightforward and do not ever double-cross me. If you do, you will have me against you. This is also the simple reason behind the “one minute” incident in Davos. So, Erdoğan was not at all hostile to Israel before the flotilla incident. The real responsibility for having made him hostile lies with the Israeli politicians and its military, having patronized and cheated an ally in the hope of getting away with it all. An apology is, yes, justified.