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On Second Thought, Maybe Israel’s Apology to Turkey was a Good Idea

Now that Israelis humiliated themselves and Erdogan is rampaging ahead, some are awakening to the fact that this apology only made matters worse.
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett speaking to reporters in Jerusalem.

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett speaking to reporters in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

I was appalled to learn a week ago that the Israeli prime minister had apologized to his Turkish counterpart for his government’s actions during the Mavi Marmara incident, seeing this as feeding the Turkish government’s inflated sense of grandeur and power.

That prediction was borne out in spades.

The municipality of Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, put up billboards on city streets reveling in the Israeli apology. They are not subtle, showing a sad-looking Netanyahu beneath a larger, buoyant Erdoğan, separated by the Mavi Marmara itself. Addressing Erdoğan, they read: “Israel apologized to Turkey. Dear Prime Minister, we are grateful that you let our country experience this pride.”

Erdogan himself claims not only that the apology has changed the balance of power in the Arab-Israeli conflict but that it obligates Israel to work with Ankara in its diplomacy with the Palestinians. He told parliament:

The point we have arrived at as a result of our consultations with all our brothers in Palestine and peripheral countries is increasing our responsibility with regard to solving the Palestinian question and thus is bringing about a new equation.

Erdogan also claimed that Israel agreed to cooperate with Turkey on talks with the Palestinians. Hürriyet Daily News goes on to paraphrase Erdoğan:

He said all his regional interlocutors, including Khaled Mashaal of the Hamas, admit that a new era has begun in the Middle East what they all call after Turkish victory on Israeli apology.

No less notable is Erdogan’s petty put down of the Israeli side:

Erdogan said his conversation with Netanyahu took place under the witness of Obama but he wanted first to talk with the US President as he missed his voice. “I talked to him and we have reviewed the text and confirmed the [apology] process. we have therefore accomplished this process under Obama’s witness,” Erdogan said, adding this phone conversation has also been recorded alongside with written statements issued from all three sides.

Ryan Mauro sums up Turkish actions over the past week:

Erdogan is extending his time in the spotlight by demanding that Israel pay $1 million to each of the nine casualties’ families, ten times the amount Israel has offered. He isn’t yet dropping his case against the Israeli generals involved in the raid, nor is he fully restoring diplomatic ties with Israel. And he’s announced that he will visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in what is a thinly-concealed victory lap.

Indeed, the Turkish gloating has been so conspicuous and extended that it may have prompted to a healthy sense of reality. So long as the Mavi Marmara incident hung over their relations with Ankara, Israelis and others could believe that an apology would magically undo the past decade. The illusion could persist that the Turks, however unreasonably, just needed to put this unpleasantness aside and things would revert to the good old days.

Now that Israelis humiliated themselves and Erdogan is rampaging ahead, some are awakening to the fact that this apology only made matters worse. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economy and trade, slammed the Turkish response:

Since the apology was made public, it appears Erdogan is doing everything he can to make Israel regret it, while conducting a personal and vitriolic campaign at the expense of Israel-Turkey relations. Let there be no doubt — no nation is doing Israel a favor by renewing ties with it. It should also be clear to Erdogan that if Israel encounters in the future any terrorism directed against us, our response will be no less severe.

Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom colorfully notes that Israelis “didn’t expect to feel that only several days after Israel’s apology, Erdogan would already be making us feel that we had eaten a frog along with our matzah this year.”

Perhaps after all the apology was a good thing. For a relatively inexpensive price – some words – Israelis and others have gained a better insight into the Turkish leadership’s mentality. It’s not that they suffer from hurt pride but that they are Islamist ideologues with an ambitious agenda. If the misguided apology makes this evident to more observers, it has its compensations and possibly could turn out to be a net plus.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner under the title, “On Second Thought … Maybe that Israeli Apology to Turkey was a Good Idea,” March 29, 2013.

About the Author: Daniel Pipes is a world-renowned Middle East and Islam expert. He is President of the Middle East Forum. His articles appear in many newspapers. He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, Pepperdine, the U.S. Naval War College, and the University of Chicago. He is a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace and other institutions. His website is DanielPipes.org.


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12 Responses to “On Second Thought, Maybe Israel’s Apology to Turkey was a Good Idea”

  1. Anya Khan says:

    The apology showed that Edrogan can't keep his word…and the BHO does not care if muslims lie.

  2. Niall Lynch says:

    Yeah. Killing nine unarmed civilians in international waters to support an illegal blockade isn't something you need to apologize for, is it?

  3. Niall Lynch says:

    Yeah. Killing nine unarmed civilians in international waters to support an illegal blockade isn't something you need to apologize for, is it?

  4. Israel's blockade of Gaza conforms with international law and the activists on board the Mavi Marmara were armed. Other than that, I'm in complete agreement with you.

  5. Niall Lynch says:

    No, it doesn't. The UN and the International Red Cross have declared it illegal. Sorry.

  6. Niall Lynch says:

    Steve Margolis Plus no firearms were aboard the Mavi Marmara. The IDF itself admits this.

  7. They were most certainly not unarmed, otherwise how did they manage to stab and bloody the Israelis who boarded? Don't get me wrong, I think Israel did the right thing here, but for realpolitik reasons, not moral ones.

  8. Ellen Popper says:

    Turkey has plenty of things to appologize for : The Kurds , the Armenians, the greek, and especially the Jews, for towing desperate men , women and children fleeing from the Holocaust in a broken down boat with no motor working, named Struma, to the high sees where the near 800 of them all drowned.,

  9. Niall Lynch says:

    Every ship has a galley, and every galley contains cutlery. The Mavi Marmara contained no firearms. That is just a fact. And of course people have every right to resist acts of piracy on the high seas. It was the IDF that was the aggressor here, and the IDF that murdered nine civilians in international waters in support of an illegal blockade. You guys don't have a leg to stand on.

  10. Niall Lynch says:

    That doesn't mean it doesn't deserve an apology for the murder of nine of its citizens in international waters by the IDF.

  11. I think actually it is not time to count money but time to work together with. time is gold for all of us. I advice to accelerate all sub projects. you are too slow and work harder. this time make holiday at home.

  12. I think actually it is not time to count money but time to work together with. time is gold for all of us. I advice to accelerate all sub projects. you are too slow and work harder. this time make holiday at home.

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