Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saving Turkish-Israeli Ties: Sideline Netanyahu and Lieberman

The Israeli government’s incompetence in solving the ongoing crisis with Turkey should be ample proof that it is time for this government to pack up and go home. While this is not likely to happen, sadly it seems that Foreign Minister Lieberman once again has gotten it his way. The damage he has caused is reaching the point of no return, and has been shockingly sanctioned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While late last week details of the Palmer Report were leaked by the New York Times, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that Israel had 24 hours to apologize for the death of the nine Turkish activists, who were killed in last summer’s botched Israeli raid on the Gaza Flotilla, warning that the consequences would be nothing less than scathing. For weeks, Turkish and Israeli diplomats and politicians tried to work out a formula that would save the relationship between the once friendly states, but to no avail. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would go no further than expressing regret; meaning an Israeli apology was out of the question. This was despite wiser government officials who believed that it was in Israel’s absolute interests to mend ties with the Turkish state.

While I will not focus on the details of the Palmer Report, I will make the following comments (here is a link to read it in its entirety): it is clear that like most diplomatic pieces of work it worked hard to give each side something it wanted: for the Israelis the report legitimized its blockade of Gaza and clearly show intent by the Turkish activists at provoking an Israeli response:

Although people are entitled to express their political views, the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade. The majority if the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly the IHH..”

for the Turkish side, it claimed that the Israeli forces acted excessively and ends with the serious claims the Israeli soldiers killing the victims were done execution style:

the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the vessels was unacceptable…forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel.

With the report further stating:

Two people were killed by a single bullet wound: Cevdet Kiliclar was killed by a single shot between the eyes, and Cengiz Songur was killed by a shot to the vase of the throat.

And continues to state information about the death of the student and US citizen Furkan Dogan who:

may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered.

The reports also documents violence perpetrated against the Israeli soldiers and how the events played out perhaps will never be completely clear. However, this report demonstrated that  Israel has failed to answer serious questions concerning the deaths of the nine activists. In short, where I agree with the report that the Turkish activists were provoking an outright conflict Israel is at fault for falling into the trap, and setting off on an operation which would leave so many people dead. For this Israel needs to apologize; if not only for the fact that even if the activists were clearly enemy to the Jewish state, they were citizens of a friendly power.  

As of today, the relations between the two states have been scaled back, with Turkey expelling the Israeli ambassador, and suspending all military ties. There were fears that this would be expanded to trade relations also; fortunately, this still not has happened but certainly the threat is looming. With such repercussions, it seems inexplicable why Israel simply did not come forth and issue an apology, if only out of realpolitik. Especially since Turkey was more than forthcoming in explaining that an apology and compensation would put the matter behind and serve as a way to rekindle their ties. However, it is clear that once again the Israeli government has been hijacked by the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, and that Netanyahu has opted to secure the coalition government even in light of such destructive policies, totally disregarding what is best for the Israeli state and its citizens.

As for the Turkish government, they too seem to be climbing higher and higher up a tree which will be difficult to come down from. With scornful messages coming from foreign minister Davutoglu, the president Abdullah Gul, and most lately from the Prime minister Erdogan himself, it seems that they are set on throwing fuel on the fire. However, the question is once this fire is a set will they be able to extinguish it. Much of the language being used seems nothing more than bullying and in a region where the status quo recently has been turned upside down, such rhetoric can lead to even more instability. Simply put, in this debacle there will be no winners.

One way out of this mess, is for the Israeli opposition to immediately work to stop the deterioration of ties; if a coalition of Israeli politicians and academicians, along with other citizens were to formulate an apology and visit Turkey, meeting with Turkish counterparts, this could serve as the first step at mending ties between the two states. Perhaps, it is now up to citizens (on both side) to stop this free-for-all which is causing the region irreversible damage. As almost 450,000 Israelis marched for social justice not allowing their government to dictate their future, other right minded Israelis should come together in an united voice to rethink their future in the region at large; this concerning the upcoming recognition of Palestine, and just as well their future ties with Turkey.


  1. "In short, where I agree with the report that the Turkish activists were provoking an outright conflict Israel is at fault for falling into the trap, and setting off on an operation which would leave so many people dead. For this Israel needs to apologize" is this for real? It doesn't even make any sense. Would you apology and compensate someone who set you up? You need to be insane for doing that.

    "The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH" - for my view, it seems like the Turkish government should apology AND compensate the people and families which the IHH led into their trap. The Turkish government encouraged the flotilla and didn't investigate the IHH enough (the IHH participants didn't even had security screening), so that is why they should take some of the responsibility on their own.

    So what is my suggestion? My suggestion is to take both Israeli and Turkish governments to talk about the conclusions and to get into agreement that both sides are guilty for the consequences, rather if it was because of the tension escalation or excessive force used. They don't even have to apology or compensate each other. It will be good enough if they will just sign on a document which restrict any act which might lead for another escalation.

    Anyway, I'm proud of my government. Both Netanyahu and Lieberman. Apologizing for other side to put our navy soldiers at life risk is stupid and ungrateful. And it's priceless.

    Sorry, this time I'm almost completely disagree with you.

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  3. We will never know the details of how israeli soldiers went on board of that ship but logically they were armed and could do their job without shedding blood, and there is a significant issue that there were people from many nations in that flotilla and just turkish citizens were killed by soldiers (just one of them had turkish and US passport). It makes us to think that they were choosen to kill and the israeli government wanted to send a message to turkish government, they just wanted to say, do not interfere our internal affairs.

    Israli government still avoid an official apology to Turkey, even if they do that, this could not bring back that lost lives, shame on politicians...

  4. an excellent blog. the other comments are thoughful showing that at least SOME people
    are paying attention to the relationship between Turkey and Israel even if their views differ.