Whether or not it was wise, we can debate. But it’s hard not to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey as the diplomatic equivalent of a battered spouse apologizing to the batterer.
Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, tried to ameliorate the bitter taste left by the apology. “As we always said: only true friends apologize to each other,” he tweeted. So, is Turkey a true friend, then? After all, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month called Zionism “a crime against humanity.” Apologists suggested that Erdoğan’s slander was based on the Turkish understanding of Zionism, and should be seen in that context. Mustafa Akyol, for example, wrote, “Erdoğan is a very Turkish politician. He, in other words, thinks and speaks in very local terms, not international ones. Therefore when he speaks of ‘Zionism,’ what he has in mind is what most Turks have in mind, rather than what Ban Ki-moon, Netanyahu and Kerry have in theirs.” By such logic, of course, any and all incitement is permissible. Ahmadinejad, after all, is just a product of his society. That Erdoğan has systematically moved to crush any editor or journalist that did not parrot his world view has only augmented Turkey’s hatred. Nevertheless, if Turkey is a true friend, as Namik Tan suggests, then perhaps it is time for Erdoğan to apologize for his remarks.
That is only the beginning, however. After the Bulgarian Foreign Minister questioned Turkey’s position on the Mavi Marmara incident, a senior aide to notoriously caustic Erdoğan ally Egemen Bağış suggested the reason why the Bulgarian official had taken such a position was because he had Jewish roots. Would an apology from Mr. Bağış be too much to ask? Perhaps Ahmet Kavas, Namik Tan’s colleague as ambassador, should apologize to France, the United States, and all the victims of 9/11 for embracing al-Qaeda and denying it is a terrorist entity? Of course, no apologies will be forthcoming. That probably reflects the fact that diplomatic smoke-and-mirrors aside, Turkey simply isn’t a good friend.