October 10, 2013 | 12:08 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Turkish government seem to be playing a very childish game with Israel.
After groveling, twisting and twirling to the Turks infantile demands, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now being demanded to do more. More than six months after doing the impossible and apologizing for no real reason to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and trying to rehabilitate the broken diplomatic relationship between the two countries, Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, said in an interview to Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper that “Israel apologized too late.”
The apology he is referring to is the one for the Marmara incident from over three years ago. In May 2010, a flotilla by the name of MV Mavi Marmara approached Gaza’s shore, as people on board presented themselves as activists carrying humanitarian aid. Israeli Naval Forces communicated with people on board, informing them that a naval blockade over the Gaza area was in force and ordered the ship to follow them to Ashdod Port, where they can arrange the humanitarian aid to be delivered to the citizens of Gaza, or to be boarded. They declined.
An IDF naval unite was then sent to enforce the naval blockade and a fire exchange ignited. The activists attacked the soldiers with weapons they had on board, as the soldiers took over the ship. In this incident nine Turks that were on the ship were killed. Although Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that "the Mavi Marmara did not carry any humanitarian aid, except for the passengers' personal belongings,” the Turkish government put on quite a show for the media and public, presenting the story as if the helpless peace activists on board were attacked for trying to help the people of Gaza. That claim was, of course, supported by the already then biased UN Human Rights Council (the same council that is too busy condemning Israel that it keeps missing actual human rights violations in Syria, China and Africa.)
That incident, following a list of small diplomatic incidents, led to a rupture in the Israel-Turkey relationship, stopping almost completely the massive Israeli tourism to Turkey. To make things worse, over a year ago, the Turkish government held a "show trial" in Turkey, where four former IDF commanders, including former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, were accused of serious crimes. At the same time, the Israeli government made attempts to tell the public what really happened on that deck, but no one wanted the beautiful story of the Israeli aggressor against the helpless peace activists ruined.
About six months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did the impossible and threw years of persuasion attempts down the drain. He spoke on the phone with Erdoğan for the first time since 2009, and voiced regret for the loss of life in the incident while apologizing for any mistakes that led to the death of the nine Turkish activists. Netanyahu sent the message to the Israeli public that he still knows the truth and that it is the only way to rehabilitate the Israel-Turkey relationship. After going through an even bigger humiliation when Erdoğan hung posters of Netanyahu on the streets of Turkey, informing the public that he is smaller than himself, it appeared as if Israel and Turkey renewed their diplomatic relationship.
Now, after Israel’s tourism to Turkey was fully renewed, earning the Turkish government some serious money, they are trying to milk the humiliation cow yet again. The Turkish government not only claims that the apology came “too late,” but also presented Netanyahu with two more demands in order to restore diplomatic relations between the countries. The second demand, after the apology, is payment of restitution to the families of the nine killed. Israel was willing to pay. However, according to Yedioth Aharonoth, Israel wanted the payments to be defined as "assistance to families,” while Turkey insisted on defining the payment as "restitution for the deaths of nine Turkish civilians,” which means this demand is still under a disagreement. The third demand presented by Turkey was the removal of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. If the first two demands could be achieved at the price of Israel bending and being humiliated, the third one is practically impossible, and both sides know it.
Erdogan is playing a juvenile game which he believes will advance his unrealistic desire to revive the Ottoman Empire. However, putting Netanyahu’s patience to the test over and over again will eventually do him no good. His dreams of becoming a mighty ruler will hurt the Turkish economy, which is being constantly fed by massive Israeli tourism. Moreover, in the burning Middle East, where Arab countries have more non-negotiable differences amongst themselves than with Israel, being Israel’s friend can only do good for Turkey, as opposed to announcing before the Arab world that Erdoğan is now the king of the Middle East.
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