True success is accepting Israel’s apology
In this piece, we will view the incident predominantly from Turkey’s side. It is a significant achievement that in the phone conversation Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu March 22, the Turkish PM accepted the apology of his Israeli counterpart offered to the Turkish people for the Mavi Marmara incident and also the promise of compensation for the families of the victims.
Prime Minister Erdoğan has flexed and harmonized Turkey’s previous stance on “normalization” with Israel commensurately according to the changing conditions of the region. The success is there.
When Turkey’s past stance and present stance are compared to each other, it can be seen that Turkey has demonstrated a laudable moderation in the topics of “apology,” which was the first condition of normalization, and the third condition that was imposed later in mid-2011, which was “Israel’s lifting of the embargo and blockade imposed on Gaza.”
Let’s start with the “apology.”
It is not the first time that Turkey and Israel agreed on a Mavi Marmara apology and compensation. The two countries, as a result of secret diplomacy they conducted, were close to reconciliation in June 2011 and even produced a draft document dated June 18-19, 2011. The apology in that document was categorically expressed as an “apology” in English. The only annotation Turkey attached to this document was the description of the incident and that was directly related to the incident. Well, it is correct that the account of the incident should be agreed on first. Only after this can it be decided for what an apology is needed and that apology could be accepted by Turkey. At the beginning of the draft document it was written that “The deaths and injuries on the Mavi Marmara did not happen intentionally.” Turkey was saying just the opposite, that is, the activists were killed intentionally and not by a mistake of the Israeli soldiers.
It is now understood that Turkey, as of the phone conversation between Erdoğan and Netanyahu dated March 22, has tacitly accepted the Israeli account that the deaths on the Mavi Marmara were not intentional but a result of operational mistake, when it accepted Israel’s apology.
It is impossible to think otherwise when the official statement issued by Erdoğan’s office after the phone conversation is read. The statement said, “Netanyahu apologized to Turkish people on behalf of Israel for all kinds of operational mistakes that led to loss of human life and injuries and Erdoğan has accepted this apology.”
As a result, by accepting the apology of “death by mistake” instead of intentionally, Ankara has taken a constructive step back from the initial position it approached the subject with.
Let’s take a look at the topic of “embargo and blockade.”
As you know, Turkey has made it its third official condition of normalization that “the embargo and the sea blockade over Gaza be lifted” after the failure of the above mentioned agreement.
This step has no other meaning than hypothecating the bilateral relations of Turkey and Israel in the course of the Gaza issue.
The security Israel defines for itself has never been a subject that it can sacrifice for “normal” relations with Turkey; it is not one either today.
At that time, the Turkey of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) made a political choice to conduct a “cold war” with Israel.
However, now it is seen that Turkey, maybe not in the wording but through the actual state created by accepting the apology, has given up its precondition of the lifting of the embargo and the blockade. Because, the sea blockade, which was in itself the reason for the Mavi Marmara action, is standing where it is.
Meanwhile, in both of the official statements issued by Netanyahu’s office and by Erdoğan’s office, no reference to this blockade has been made.
The embargoes, on the other hand, have been softened independent of Turkey’s demands by means of the emergence of adequate conditions in Gaza from Israel’s point of view. In Netanyahu’s statement, it is mentioned that as long as the tranquility remains, the relaxing of the embargo will continue. In other words, the relaxing of the embargoes or the opposite is connected to the course of events in Gaza. The normalization step between Israel and Turkey has been taken only because Turkey has moderated its tough stance.
Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on March 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.