Why did we eat so much dirt?
Was it a mistake to engage in such oddities with Israel? Was it right to shoot down the Russian fighter jet and get the Vladimir Putin bear on us?
Of course all those troubles were products of wrong policies and bad decisions of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the absolute authority of the country, the benevolent elected sultan would not want for one second such a derailment in Turkey’s strategic relations.
I have to underline that indeed Israel and Turkey are natural strategic allies even at times they might be at odds. The two countries are compelled to rely on each other not only because of the incredibly rich and deep-rooted relations between the two peoples, but also their individual recent historical backgrounds. The current Islamist governance of Turkey might like to usher in a new era of relations centered on common sectarian beliefs between the Turkish state and its former subjects the Arab states but it has a meaning and importance even for the Arabs because of its capability to have secular governance in a predominantly Muslim-populated land.
The Sunni, often Salafist perceptions in governance, solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood or such organizations, like Hamas, or abetting “moderate Islamist” gangs mercilessly torturing and beheading people blatantly in front of cameras cannot befit Turkey. Such governance understanding could not last long. It just could not. Or, are we still developing a hallucination and false hopes that reason finally started to prevail in the extravagant, marble-laden corridors of palaces of Turkey?
The announcement made simultaneously by the Turkish and Israeli prime ministers was of course a landmark development for the restoration of ties but the trauma is not yet over. There is still need for the approval of the agreement by the Turkish parliament, as well as by the relevant authority in Israel. Hopefully the state-to-state deal will not be spoiled by some nasty provocative undertakings of an Islamist “NGO” once again.
Why was the Mavi Marmara ship allowed to stage that adventurist fait accompli? Why did Israeli forces undertake such an excessive and indeed brutal operation on the ship? Why was this ordeal allowed to take place by the Turkish government and why did the Israeli government not promptly cooperate with Turkey to minimize the damage and allow even some restricted aid transfer to Gaza? There are lots of questions to be asked.
What happened in the end? Turkey and Israel went through a very traumatic period in their bilateral ties. Even if the problem was totally removed and moves were taken by both countries to reinvigorate and elevate relations back to normal once again, optimistically speaking, perhaps it would take years or perhaps the two countries could never succeed in reaching the confidence level the two were enjoying up until few years ago.
Now, with great satisfaction the nation learned that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has followed the Israeli method and without apologizing expressed in a letter to his Russian counterpart and soul mate Putin how sorry he was over the downing of the Russian jet. We learned from Erdoğan’s new protégée, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, or “Yıldırım II” – the first was Yıldırım Akbulut of late Turgut Özal – that soon the Turkish and Russian presidents were expected to talk on the phone.
Was it the empty hotels along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and the prospect of losing over 25 billion euros in tourism revenues? Was it the frustration with and an effort to get out of the “prestigious loneliness” the country was pulled into? In any event, Turkey’s efforts to get out of that messy situation with Russia were a step in the right direction.
An era that started with “friends with all neighbors” ended with a “hostility with all neighbors” reality. Naturally Davutoğlu alone was not responsible for that mess but he was the prime individual responsible as both the prime minister and the foreign policy tsar of a failed period.
Was it a mistake to engage in such oddities with Israel? Was it right to shoot down the Russian fighter jet and get the Putin bear on us? Done is done. It is good that there have been efforts to get over such messy situations.
All these reminded me a Nasreddin Hodja joke. Hodja and a friend went on a journey once. Hodja’s friend had a donkey and though he was younger was riding the donkey. After a while Hodja was tired and asked his friend to let him ride the donkey for a while. His friend, a joyful young man, tells Hodja to eat a handful of dirt if he wants him to agree to the shift. Hoca eats the dirt and they exchange places. After a while the young man feels tired and asks Hodja to shift places. Hodja asks him to eat dirt so that they exchange. Until they reach the town they keep on eating dirt in turns and exchanging places. When they reach the town, Hodja tells his friend, “If we were to exchange places and ride the donkey in turns, for God’s sake why did we eat all that dirt?”
It is good to leave behind all the troubles, though we had to eat a lot of dirt…