Flip-flop politics was at work last week again. Was it not the Turkish premier who compared Zionism to fascism the other day in Vienna? Was it not he who declared the other day with his eyes glaring like pieces of red-hot coals that Turkey would never forgive the murder of civilian Turks by the Israelis? Was it not the much-learned foreign minister, amid hallucinations of being the top imam in Sunni Islam, saying that Israel was a lawless country? Now Turkey is the good friend of Israel again.
It was great, of course, that with the “mediation” of U.S. President Barack Obama, the premiers of Turkey and Israel agreed to leave behind their war of words. Yet, was there any change in essence in what the Israelis have been saying over the past three years since Israeli troops murdered eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on board an aid ship in the international waters of the Mediterranean? No. Israelis were saying they regretted the deaths and apologized for any, if there were any, operational mistakes by their soldiers. They did not say and are not saying now that attacking a civilian aid ship in international waters and killing nine civilians are criminal acts.
This reminded me of that old story of an aged man, a young boy and a donkey on the way from a village to the city. The old man riding the donkey was a rather joyful guy. Seeing that the young boy was tired of walking, he suggested that they change places if he agreed to eat a handful of the donkey’s excrement. Tired of walking, the boy agreed. A while later, the old man gets tired and asks the boy to trade places again, but the boy wants to take revenge and tells the old man he will do so on condition that the latter also eats a handful of donkey excrement. They continue the journey, shifting places after each eats a handful of excrement. As they arrive in the city, the old man turns to the boy and quips, “if we were going to shift places all the way, why the hell did we eat all that shit!”
If an expression of apology “for any operational mistakes” would be what was wanted, why have the two countries had three years of tension since that apology-like expression was used by the Israelis back in May and June 2010, after the Mavi Marmara event? Obviously, instructions from the boss of the White House were needed because the quarrel of the nasty kids started becoming very costly to their master.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quite cute in his remarks. He said the worsening Syrian situation necessitated the move. That’s indeed correct. The U.S. is not in this region, and Turkey is the sole country around acting to ensure Syrian chemical and biological capabilities do not fall into the hands of the rebels, most of whom are considered by Washington and Israel to be terrorists.
As for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Israel-bashing tactics were helpful in bolstering his political status so that he could be perceived as a regional leader on the Arab street. But the winds of the Arab Spring and the Syria situation devastated the “zero-problems” strategy of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, a fundamental element of the government’s neo-Ottomanist designs. Now Turkey has “successfully” moved from “no problems” to “no friends” in the region as the new Muslim Brotherhood-dominated or dictated regimes are unhappy with the “elder brother” role Erdoğan wanted to play. Worse, in the international arena, the tactic of bashing Israel resulted merely in giving Erdoğan the image of a regional bully – not a desirable situation at all.
The Obama-brokered rapprochement appears to be the product of changing conjecture, not of policies, intentions, approaches or goals.