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Turkey must fulfill its pledge to Israel

Netanyahu publicly placed his reputation and his country’s pride on the line in order to appease Obama and improve relations with Turkey; by ignoring its already agreed upon terms, Erdogan will make the Israeli people less likely to support another far-reaching agreement.

By Aaron Magid

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum June 2012( World Economic Forum CC BY-SA 2.0)

At the end of a much-anticipated trip to Israel in March, US President Barak Obama achieved a major diplomatic breakthrough. Following years of tension between Turkey and Israel — two key American allies in the region — Obama orchestrated a reconciliation agreement between the two sides, which promised to reduce animosity. Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risked domestic political backlash by formally apologizing for Israeli military’s actions in 2010 killing nine Turkish activists, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ignored his side of the agreement by dispatching an ambassador to Israel and normalizing ties. Obama must demand that Turkey fulfill its earlier pledge lest Turkey face public American condemnation.

Turkey and Israel experienced a low-point in their relations following the Gaza Flotilla crisis. Although the nations at one time had close ties, especially on the military level, this incident contributed to a deterioration of relations.  Both sides contributed to the tense atmosphere. At an international conference even before the 2010 Flotilla incident, Erdogan publicly embarrassed dovish Israeli President Shimon Peres exclaiming, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” Similarly, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon invited the Turkish Ambassador into his office for a condemnation in front of television cameras. At this point, he explained in Hebrew that he placed the Turkish Ambassador on a lower seat with only the Israeli flag in the room— a tactic designed to humiliate Turkey.

However, in a startling reversal of Netanyahu’s policy and going against coalition leaders such as former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who called the move a “grave mistake,” Netanyahu capitulated and formally apologized to Turkey— forgoing his nation’s pride for the sake of improved bilateral relations at the behest of Obama. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu admitted that Israel agreed to every Turkish condition, which was not easy for Netanyahu to accept. It is important to remember that there were two sides to this agreement. Israel apologized and provide compensation while Turkey was supposed to send its ambassador back to Israel and reinstate normal diplomatic ties.

Unfortunately, Turkey has not followed through with its promise and completed the reconciliation process. Months after Netanyahu’s phone call and several rounds of reconciliation talks, no Turkish ambassador has been dispatched to Tel Aviv and relations between the two countries remain cold. The Turkish newspaper Haberturk wrote that Israel was even willing to pay Turkey $15 million dollars in compensation for the 2009 flotilla killings, yet Ankara rejected this offer demanding far more money.  While Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily reported that an Israeli diplomat in Ankara holding the rank of second secretary has been invited to a government holiday commemoration, the first time this has occurred since 2010, this minimalist action is far from what normalization of relations generally entails.  In an almost comical accusation citing evidence obtained from YouTube, Erdogan blamed Israel for the recent Egyptian coup against former President Mohamed Morsi. Erdogan’s attack was vilified by Egypt with Morsi’s media advisor writing on Twitter, “West agents [such as Erdogan] shouldn’t be giving us advice in nationalism.” Erdogan’s offensive public accusations, among other combative remarks, demonstrate that he is completely uninterested in normalization, despite his earlier agreement.

Since President Obama personally brokered this agreement and called it an “important step,” he has the obligation to ensure that both sides implement the agreement. Netanyahu publicly placed his reputation and his country’s pride on the line in order to appease Obama and improve relations with Turkey; by ignoring its already agreed upon terms, Erdogan is humiliating Netanyahu and making the Israeli people less likely to support another far-reaching agreement and more distrustful of a Middle East neighbor.

Obama’s credibility in the region has already declined with his handling of Syria and its use of chemical weapons. Therefore, Obama continuing to remain silent on Erdogan’s inaction will lead leaders in the Middle East to view Obama as someone who they can easily manipulate. With tensions peaking in Syria, this is a situation that must be avoided.

Aaron Magid is an M.A. candidate at Harvard University specializing in Middle Eastern Studies. He is a staff writer for the Jerusalem Review of Near Eastern Affairs. His work has previously appeared in the Daily Beast, Jerusalem Post, and the Forward. He can be reached via Twitter @AaronMagid. 

Read more:
Investigating Gaza flotilla deaths would sacrifice International Criminal Court’s legitimacy

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      Soo.. Lieberman and others were right in arguing that Turkey under Erdogan is interested for his own political/diplomatic reasons in continuing the confrontation with Israel and no Israeli apology would change that?

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        As usual, Israel wants to get something for nothing. Sure, it “apologized” to the Turkish people and agreed to pay some compensation to the families of the murdered. But it did so after pretty much having its arm twisted behind its back by Obama, and being promised something that it was not entitled to in the first place (war with Iran). Israel didn’t do anything to deserve Turkey’s friendship.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          So, Lieberman was right then? No apology or compensation would change the hostility that Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey displays towards Israel which started before the Marmara?

          Just say yes because you already have in your own snotty little way.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Of course Lieberman was right, but none of petty lefties would ever admit it.

            Which is good, by the way.

            Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      Yeah, right. Turkey must fulfill its pledge to Israel, Israel must fulfill its pledge to UN, UN also must filfill many pledges to whoever, etc., etc.

      Reply to Comment
    3. JohnW

      I say, I am shocked. Shocked to my core that Erdogan prefers confrontation with Israel. It was soooooooo hard to predict. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply to Comment
    4. TobyR

      Well, Erdogan probably thinks that Turkey doesn’t really need Israel’s friendship, that he can garner more popular support by giving Israel the cold shoulder and that if nothing else the current crisis in Syria has driven home the point that Turkey is a far more crucial ally to the US than Israel is.

      And he’d be correct on all three counts.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        In other words Lieberman was right and the apology was pointless because Turkey’s leaders prefer to be hostile to Israel as part of a wider strategy and the demand for an apology was just an excuse?

        Come on.. One of you just say yes. You know I am right.

        Also, what the Syrian crisis shows (among others) is that Turkey is a paper tiger with an entirely failed foreign policy. The mighty Erdogan has been demanding that the Western imperialist crusaders come help him deal with Syria while claiming to be an Islamic superpower and sitting on one of NATO’s biggest armies. The PM of this Islamic superpower now can barely find a place in the ME which would receive him for a diplomatic visit.

        Reply to Comment
        • TobyR

          Sure it was pointless. Expecting a few nice cheap words to set things back to “normal” without changing your actual policies one iota wasn’t gonna help.

          As a side point: Your lack of knowledge about the Syrian conflict and Turkey’s role for NATO and the US is so limited as to be amusing. To get anything done wrt Syria at all, NATO needs Turkey. And NATO needs Israel… to shut the hell up and not make things worse by its usual inappropriately bolsterous grandstanding.

          P.S.: Qatar, UAE, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. This is a list of ME countries Erdogan has made a state trip to… this year. As I said: Your ignorance is amusing.

          Reply to Comment
    5. rsgengland

      Turkey under its present leaders has a foreign policy that has tried to align it with the Arab/Muslim world.
      Every foray that Turkey has made in this direction has been a total failure.
      Erdogan tried to align Turkey with Iran and Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and reduce ties with Israel.
      Every country that Erdogan courted is in grave difficulty, while Israel seems to have thrived under Turkeys rejection.
      Erdogan is an Islamist who hates Israel, so it is better to leave things as they are until Turkeys ‘Democratic Process’ results in a change of leadership more attuned to realpolitik rather than ideology.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      “Every country that Erdogan courted is in grave difficulty, while Israel seems to have thrived under Turkeys rejection.”

      If that’s the case, how come Israel apologized to Turkey, and not vice versa?

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “If that’s the case, how come Israel apologized to Turkey, and not vice versa?”

        Bibi miscalculated. It isn’t for the first time, nor for the last time unfortunately. It happens.

        However, at least Bibi tried. Erdogan, the Islamist, however has proved that he always wanted a rift with Israel as many of us knew. So when Turkey goes down the drain because of him, everyone will know that he and his party are to blame for it. There will be no excuses for him.

        Reply to Comment
      • rswgengland

        Israel “apologized” to Erdogan to offer a prize to Obama for his visit to Israel.
        Israels’ “apology” was realpolitik, while Erdogans rejection of Israel is ideological.
        Israel has avoided involvement in all the regions troubles, sitting on the side lines as an observer.
        The upheavals in the Arab/Muslim lands has proved the lie that the Israel/Palestine conflict is the root of all the problems of the area.
        The Israel/Palestine conflict has always been used by the Arab/Muslim world as a fig leaf to conceal their own internal differences and conflicts; and that includes Turkey.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Hasbara whining here ?

      “Netanyahu is being humiliated and the Israeli people is really sad”
      This text is a joke and Aaron Magid, the writer, will sooner or later join Judaism nationalism mafia.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Alesandro

      Turkey foreign policy must be independent even from USA, not talking about Israel at all , the Zionist state must become more human regime , before the Turks normalize any relations with them!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Sean Mullin

      So if I’m getting this straight…Israel spent years trying to say their actions on the flotilla were justified; the IDF produced ‘little snipets’ of IDF soldiers being beaten (which definitely happened) and initially tried to suggest that the people killed were terrorists (us activists are all terrorist don’t you know) and so on..Broader analysis of the event of course revealed the brutality of the IDF and their role in instigating the hostilities. The world (the thinking world) made a fair analysis based on the stats Israeli people dead=0 Brown people dead=9…So Israel apologises (taking responsibility in doing so) offers compensation, but not justice (murderers in western nations face trails and stuff like that, even if they wear a uniform)..Now, Erdogan (who events earlier in the year demonstrated, is not exactly a shy leftist) doesn’t follow through on his promises; clearly that’s wrong..but isn’t it a little nit picky to criticise him given that a diplomatic shrug is in no way equitable to the blood and pain occasioned by the pumped up little android racists of the IDF? I think causing ‘embarrassment’ to Israeli politicians is not too big a deal. Netanyahu and Lieberman have both demonstrated time and time again that their understanding of the concept of shame is fairly sketchy. ‘Right’ (or correct) on the details either one may be, but in terms of the broader picture both these guys are very, very wrong in pretty much everything they say or do that has real time consequences for anyone not Jewish with the misfortune of living under their control. So what exactly is this article about? and what is doing published on the one solitary source of light emanating from a brain washed, frankly racist Israeli media? I’ll take a red face over red hands any day. I think the author need to broaden his focus somewhat; Israeli feelings are not the only ones worth anything.

      Reply to Comment
      • Shmuel

        “The world (the thinking world) made a fair analysis based on the stats Israeli people dead=0 Brown people dead=9″

        And another thing, my polemicist friend:

        This might shock you but many Israelis are very brown and many Arabs are very white.

        So this may be a revelation for you too: this 100 year is nationalistic in nature. Two peoples fighting for the same piece of dirt (land). It was never a race war.

        Reply to Comment
    10. Shmuel

      “The world (the thinking world) made a fair analysis based on the stats Israeli people dead=0 Brown people dead=9″

      Are you for fucking real????!!!! Are you really saying that no Israelis have ever been murdered by Palestinian Arabs in this 100 year war that the Palestinian Arabs started and continued?????!!!!!!

      Go open a history book and stop your propaganda!!!!!!

      Reply to Comment
      • Sean Mullin

        I would have absolutely no hesitation in expressing unreserved sympathy for families and loved ones of the 1000s of Israelis who have died during the formation of the state of Israel since its formation never mind acknowledging it; however, you as an individual should look at the 1000s and 10000s more innocent Palestinians killed by Israelis in what has been by anyone’s standards the most intensive and well funded process of colonialisation and land repossession in the last 100 years if not in history. You can find these stats at Bt Selem (since the 2nd intifada at least) or ask any respected Israeli Historian and they will tell you (assuming you only listen to Israelis, I could be wrong there, if so sorry). You are right, I was being polemical with the brown and Israeli thing. I am well aware of the wide genetic gene pool Judaism encompasses. As a faith and a people its a great strength to draw bloodlines (and passports!) from all over the world; and I know too that this is due to the exodus, dispora and inter marriage etc etc, Sephardi, Askanazi, etc etc. I was trying to be particular to the case and current not going into a historical quagmire; so we’ll swap the brown for Arab..so you can be more comfortable with the idea of 9 dead Arabs, not 9 dead people of a colour that some Jews are. Thank you for taking the time to compose your response.

        Reply to Comment
        • Shmuel

          Thank you too for acknowledging the deaths of innocent Israelis at the hands of Palestinian Arabs and yes I too acknowledge that innocents died on the other side too.

          Also, thank you for acknowledging that this 100 year war is between Arabs and Jews, not between brown skins and whites.

          But at that point, our differences begin. I strongly disagree with your description of Israelis as colonisers. What next? Would you call American Indians or Australian Aborigenis colonisers if they would attempt to establish their own mini state on part of the lands that was once totally theirs?

          For your information, 2000 years ago, Jews were natives of the lands that European colonisers (the Romans) renamed Palestine. Those colonisers expelled the natives (the Jews) from those lands. Subsequently, other colonisers, the Arabs, took over those lands. Yes I know, some of the Palestinian Arabs, not all, are also natives, perhaps Jews who converted to Islam and assimilated to Arab culture. But equally, a small number of Jews always lived in Palestine and they remained Jews.

          Throughout history, including modern times, other Arabs settled in Palestine and Jews also returned fleeing from persecutions in Europe and Arab lands. If you describe that as colonisation, then you are either ignorant of history or you lack a sense of justice.

          As for what Betselem and other leftist ideologues write, all I can say to you is: broaden your reading list. You might gain some real perspective instead of just repeating propaganda prepared by ideologues who have a certain agenda.

          Reply to Comment
          • “Would you call American Indians or Australian Aborigenis colonisers if they would attempt to establish their own mini state on part of the lands that was once totally theirs?”

            - course you bloody would. get real.

            Reply to Comment
          • Shmuel

            “- course you bloody would. get real.”

            And a nice marxist like you would agree with that? Of course you would. Because hypocrisy is your middle name.

            Reply to Comment
          • I didn’t say “I would”, I said “you would”, meaning really, “they would”, the Americans would. I’m not one of them, I’m English. But in some analogous case, e.g. Welsh independence for instance, I wouldn’t really give a damn, personally, but in general I regard nationalism as a phantasm and a distraction from class struggle. And in my opinion, ‘the Jews’ were the first and for many centuries the only ‘nation’ in the western world. I see the Bible and the Mishnah as the instruments by which the Jewish nation was constructed, more than a millennium before the Europeans discovered nationhood. But once the national consciousness is established, the religion becomes unnecessary. Spinoza and Heine didn’t cease to be Jews by apostasizing in their different ways. But at the same time, there’s nothing ‘racial’ about it; the nation is a pure political concept, irreducible to anything in biology. And although the Jewish nation is certainly a very remarkable phenomenon, and individual Jews can be terrific and often are, I don’t think the national idea has done the species much good.

            Reply to Comment
          • Shmuel

            “but in general I regard nationalism as a phantasm and a distraction from class struggle.”

            Yet in spite of that, nations exist. They are a fact of life.

            Personally I prefer not to struggle. In my ideal world, everyone would get along. But hey that’s a phantasm too. Don’t you agree?

            “I don’t think the national idea has done the species [Jews] much good.”

            Maybe, maybe not. But our nationhood is a fact and we exist. For 2000 years we tried the alternative (or more accurately, were forced to try it). How did THAT work out for us? I would say not too good. Others kept on reminding us who we are even when some of us tried to forget it. And a lot of those “reminders” were very detrimental to our well being. I would say even lethal. Wouldn’t you agree?

            But back to the argument of colonialism. Seeing that you don’t count yourself amongst those who would call the Welsh and other native peoples seeking to establish their own states, colonialists, can I assume that you feel the same way about the Jews for having done the same? Or are you too one of those who would rather see a separate set of norms applying to Jews only??

            Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Arabs = Turks in your world or is it that all brown people are alike to you and thus can be called either Arabs or Turks or Latinos interchangeably?

          Reply to Comment
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