We regret apologizing…
Belatedly, the State of Israel has done what it ought to have done a long time ago. That was Israel’s moral obligation for the silly operation in which Israeli commandos killed civilians onboard the Mavi Marmara – a moral obligation regardless of whether the activists onboard were activists, sympathizers of terrorists or activists who sympathized with terrorists.
The apology is easy to sell on the Turkish market: for most Turks, the “myth of Israel,” cracks after cracks, has eventually bowed before the emerging “myth of neo-Ottoman Turkey.” And the apology is not hard to sell on the Israeli market: many, if not most, Israelis believe that the apology and its de facto / de jure consequence, compensation for the families of victims, is well justified for humane reasons. The apology has not ridiculed, humiliated or belittled the State of Israel.
But, politically speaking, where will the belated apology take Turkish-Israeli relations? Back to May 30, 2010? Back to January 2009? November 2008? 2005? Is the Turkish-Israeli Cold War over? Will it be a Warmer-than-Cold War? All options are open but, most probably, it will be a Turkish-Israeli Cold Peace – peace, as it denotes “a temporary period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”
Retrospectively, on the part of Israel, downplaying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Davos tirade was a mistake. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s childish low-chair diplomacy was a mistake. Blocking deliveries of weapon systems for a Turkish project with major U.S. and NATO implications was a mistake. The military modality chosen to block the Mavi Marmara flotilla was a mistake. Not admitting the gross operational blunder was a mistake. Not apologizing for that blunder was a mistake. And not only that.
Apologetically trying every possible back channel to win Mr. Erdogan’s heart and mind was a mistake since this was perceived by the neo-Ottoman mind merely as an Israeli weakness and as proof that “we have done the right thing in our dealings with the Jews.” And now if the Israelis believe that the good old days are coming soon to the nearest theater, it will be an even bigger mistake.
The mood of victory in Ankara adds to the alluring face value of “bringing the Jewish state” to its knees. This is about propaganda, not necessarily about facts or semi-facts. The Israelis may think that the third Turkish precondition for normalization, the removal of the blockade on Gaza, need not be literally met since “working together for more efficient means of humanitarian aid” does not mean the end of naval and other security-related restrictions.
But luckily if anyone conducted a poll in Turkey tomorrow, a clear majority of Turks will say the blockade has been removed thanks to Turkish pressure. It’s a miracle that everyone is happy: Israelis, for knowing that the restrictions remain intact; and the Turks, for thinking that they have been scrapped.
But for now we can enjoy the Turkish-Israeli Cold Peace until it once again turns into a Cold War. The détente will survive until a “Yesil Marmara” or a “Mavi Akdeniz” sails toward Gaza or, more realistically, until Mr. Erdogan, now confident that his Israel policy actually works, decides it’s time to go back to the Cold War with the broader aim of pushing Israel back to its pre-1967 borders which, in Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s understanding of semantics, means that “we shall be able to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian capital of Quds.”
Yet it was nice to see that “Israel is sorry to have regretted apologizing and that it wanted Turkish forgiveness and repented.” Just in case it may have gone unnoticed in Jerusalem, I shall quote Volkan Bozkır, a former senior diplomat, AKP deputy and chairman of Parliament’s foreign relations committee:
“The Jewish lobby has lost much of its mythical power. Our prime minister’s rhetoric and actions have largely caused this. The way he (Mr. Erdoğan) walked out of the Davos meeting has substantially tarnished Israel’s regional charisma. Despite all that, Israel has been unable to harm Turkey.” (Interview with Hürriyet, March 18, 2013)