Reactions to the surprise ‘apology’ from Israel to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident are coming in, and they are interesting.
Barry Rubin points out that the actual statement by Israel does not accept blame for the deaths of nine ‘activists’, but merely refers to “operational mistakes,” apologizes for “any error which may have led to the loss of life,” and offers compensation.
All true, but who cares? It is being reported as an admission of guilt by Israel, an affirmation of the anti-Israel narrative of the incident, in which Israel deliberately killed “peace activists” when it “committed war crimes” by “attacking” the ship.
One correspondent writes to me that he does not trust Erdoğan, but “this is a strategic decision, and if this can help Israel, I accept. At least this is the position of the israeli army commanders. Everybody today recognizes that the Marmara issue was very badly handled.” In other words, if this will improve relations between Israel and Turkey (and Obama?) then it’s worth a little embarrassment.
I don’t buy it. First, it will not improve relations with Turkey (indeed, see the end of this post!) because relations are poor as a result of a deliberate strategy, not an unpleasant incident. Relations have deteriorated consistently since Erdoğan’s AKP came to power in 2003. Erdoğan hosted Hamas leaders in Ankara, and humiliated Israeli President Shimon Peres on the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2009. And of course, remember that Erdoğan’s regime orchestrated the Mavi Marmara incident as a deliberate provocation — and Israel fell right into the trap.
Second, it is not merely ‘a little embarrassment’. It squanders the diplomatic gains Israel achieved when the UN’s own Palmer Commission found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its boarding of the ships of the flotilla were legal and justified (although it did criticize Israel’s ‘excessive’ use of force). It constitutes a loss of honor in the honor-obsessed Middle East (did any Arab leader ever apologize for anything?) And it is an invitation for further blockade-breaking flotillas. This is in addition to playing into the growing meme that Jews or Israel may not defend themselves, while supporters of ‘Palestine’ are permitted any atrocity in the name of the oppressed.
Technically, the ‘apology’ does none of these things. ‘Technically’ and about $3 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks in Fresno.
But what about improved relations with Turkey? Didn’t Erdoğan promise to exchange ambassadors, and drop legal actions against IDF soldiers and Israeli officials? Well, it turns out that it may be a bit early for that:
“We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If [the Israelis] move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying, in remarks at an opening ceremony for a high-speed railway line in the central Turkish province of Eskişehir…
Erdoğan told reporters that it wasn’t yet time to talk about dropping the case in which four IDF generals stand accused of war crimes over the incident. The indictment, prepared last summer, sought ten aggravated life sentences for each officer ostensibly involved in the 2010 raid — including former chief of the IDF General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin…
Despite the formal apology issued by Netanyahu on Friday in the presence of US President Barack Obama, Erdoğan’s Saturday statement indicated that Ankara was not entirely prepared to let bygones be bygones. He stressed that during his conversation with him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised to improve the humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories.
“I accepted the apology in the name of the Turkish people,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying, adding that he was planning to visit Gaza in April.
Will Israel get anything out of this deal? I doubt it. And what’s been lost is lost. Same story, over and over.