MURAT YETKİN > Israeli apology, the background story

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According to high-ranking sources, the diplomacy that resulted in an Israeli apology to Turkey over the Turks killed by Israeli soldiers in 2010 started some two weeks ago. American diplomats told their Turkish counterparts that U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to have an end to the Turkish-Israeli rift and wanted to open the subject up to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel, if Turkey wanted an agreement, too.

In the background of the latest U.S. moves there were many two incident on the same day. On Feb. 28 Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at an international conference in Vienna said that Zionism was a “crime against humanity” like fascism, which triggered reaction in Israel and among the Israeli lobby in the U.S. and Europe. The same day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a joint press conference with his Turkish host Ahmet Davutoğlu that the U.S. and Turkey do not share the same views on Israel.

On March 12, 89 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to Erdoğan and asked him to retract his words on Zionism, which he did not; he said he stood behind what he said but he had been misunderstood.

It seems that letter triggered the U.S. move, since the White House wanted to see its two main allies in the region work together once again as they did until the “one minute” incident in Davos in 2009.

As Ankara said they could accept the good offices of the U.S. to have an agreement with Israel, based on an apology, the diplomacy started. Before the start of Obama’s visit on March 20, diplomatic drafts about the terms of a possible agreement started to go back and forth between Ankara and Jerusalem under the auspices of U.S. diplomacy. 

The first positive step of goodwill, as a confidence-building measure, was taken as Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, the head of the Turkish Union of Chambers of Commerce (TOBB) was appointed as the head of the Arbitration Commission in disputes between Palestinian and Israeli businessmen on March 17.

The fact that there is still not a name for the new Israeli Foreign Ministry and Netanyahu assumes the office because of the corruption trial of Avigdor Lieberman, who opposes any apology to Turkey, made it easier for the Americans to get the deal closed.

At around 4 p.m. on March 22, Obama in Jerusalem in his last hours there called up Erdoğan. Following niceties, he passed the phone to Netanyahu. The two prime ministers agreed to issue the same statement in their capitals that would clarify an Israeli apology and compensation for the families of the Turks who were killed. Turkey softened its attitude on the third condition for an agreement, which was an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Netanyahu, who takes the issue as its right of sovereignty, said Israel had already softened the embargo on Gaza since the revolution in Egypt and would take further steps depending on the situation in Gaza. The final text says anyway that Israel would take Turkish assistance in dealings with the Palestinians.

Following the conversation of around half an hour, Obama took the phone back, told Erdoğan that he was glad to see this happening and said “See you soon,” which was actually a sign that Erdoğan would get a White House appointment soon.

There is another interesting dimension of U.S. diplomacy between Turkey and Israel. Hours before the final move for an Israeli apology, the U.S. State Department issued a statement praising Erdoğan’s initiative to start a dialogue for a political solution to the Kurdish problem that resulted in a call by the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to stop its armed campaign.

There is one thing to be noted: Determination when you are right brings success. This is a success of the determination of the Erdoğan government regarding its policy on Israel. It also proved that Israel, despite the full backing of the U.S. government suffered more than Turkey because of the lack of relations between them. For the first time since its establishment in 1948, Israel regrets a military action.

This agreement will change the political balances of the whole region and will have implications on cases like Syria, Iran, Iraq and possibly Cyprus.


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cezer "çapulcu" skonore

3/24/2013 4:24:09 PM

Guys there is no need to get really philosophical about this event. The problem between Turkey and Israel was mostly confined to diplomacy and military relations, trade was not effected, even improved during this period. My point, the high tension was artificial.


3/24/2013 2:48:35 PM

Blood still remains on Israeli hands and so are the medals pinned on the killers by Bibi. Israel is still and again getting away with murder. Excuse me if I do not do the happy dance and gloat!


3/24/2013 2:42:22 PM

Thessalonian, flawed analysis is the one which predicts that Turkey will allow an attack against Iran through her soil or airspace. That will not happen, with or without Netanyahu's apology. It will not happen because it will turn Iranian public as well as Iran and its terrorist friends against Turkey, with years of headache. Similarly, Turkey didn't allow Iraq invasion from her soil. Mr Yetkin is right. His last paragraph is a good clue for why Israel, having killed innocent Turks, apologised.

OZman Cometh

3/24/2013 12:04:45 PM

Why does there have to be a conspiracy in this? Mr Selanikli, you don't have dog in this hunt. Israel more than TR needs the U.S. Hence the belated apology with some U.S. pressure. TR got what it wanted, apology, discussions on compensation, an easing of the Gaza blockade and deeper TR involvement in the Palestinian cause. No matter what the spin TR was on the side of right on this one.

ivan mezei

3/24/2013 7:58:24 AM

Mr. Yetkin, Turkey should not gloat about Netanyahu ' s apology. You still haven't mentioned what Israel received in return for this apology. I suspect that it will be more to do with Iran and Syria. There may be a message being sent Iran and Assad, that there is now a more uniform alliance that opposes the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah triangle. Lastly, should Mr. Erdogan, squander the Israeli apology, he may not get another chance at it.

Peter Kypros

3/24/2013 4:21:55 AM

Is this is all part of a game? Now Israel will be innocent in the eyes of Mr Erdogan and the rights of the Palestinians are in the sidelines and irrelevant? Ethics and morality is not and will never be part of political decisions. We live in a jungle that appears like a peaceful green valley till the next big war takes us by surprise.

Mr. Ahmad

3/23/2013 6:45:06 PM

PKK initiated a deadly attack shortly after Mavi Marmara attack by Israel. Now, both are in the peace camp at the same time. I wonder is this coordinated action or a coincidence?


3/23/2013 1:39:20 PM

Mr. Yetkin, as you already and most probably know, Mr. Netanyahu's unilateral decision has attracted nothing but contempt and nauseating disgust from the Erdogan detesting Israelis and non-Israelis worldwide as well as from within. Those who did not express the latter feelings, have done so on the foundation that this was a strategic move allowing the US to use Turkey as an ally when push-comes-to-shove with the Iranians. Your analysis is rather flawed and tailored to crowd appeasing. Regards

Nageyec Conduz

3/23/2013 8:45:19 AM

Well, it looks like that the whole region will benefit the imminent cooperation of Turkey and Israel. Having said this, this week, things seem to be moving faster for Turkey though if they are not carefully dealt with may not produce the expected result.

Mo Mo

3/23/2013 7:37:48 AM

Israel doesn't regret the action. It apologised for "errors" in carrying it out. The Israeli soldiers were attacked by violent individuals and they reacted as any soldier would. The loss of life is certainly regretted.
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