On Tuesday, I posted here about how Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was being two-faced in his dealings with Benjamin Netanyahu after the latter’s apology for the loss of life in the raid on the Mavi Marmara. The reason for the apology—part of a deal brokered by President Obama—was to allow Turkey and Israel to reconcile and renew their partnership.
Turkey appears to have violated that deal by seeking referral of the case to the International Criminal Court, litigation which Obama and Netanyahu understood Erdoğan would not support once he had his apology. Just as Erdoğan sought plausible deniability when he first invited Hamas to Ankara, telling Western officials that the invitation came from his political party (AKP) and not from the state, so too does the referral to the ICC come from a familiar proxy: a law firm where one principal has been a long-time AKP party activist and the other has been intimately involved in the IHH, the pro-Hamas organization that sponsored the Mavi Marmara. The proxy issue goes farther, of course, as the AKP had provided the ship to the IHH in the first place.
Back when Israel issued its apology to Turkey, we debated here at COMMENTARY whether Israel’s apology was wise. I was opposed to it and, while I hoped for the best, my distrust of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and castigation of his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu for making the deal now appears wholly justified. Part of the reason why Israel made the deal—despite a UN investigation finding that Israel’s raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was justified—was to get Israel-Turkey relations back on track and avoid the further downturn in relations that Turkish referral to the hopelessly politicized International Criminal Court (ICC) would bring.
The Mavi Marmara was a deliberate provocation, however, conducted as part of Erdoğan’s ideological agenda, just as the Turkish prime minister’s verbal assault on Shimon Peres at Davos was beforehand. Israelis can kid themselves that Turkey will honor its agreements or that it seeks peace and stability in the region. Turkey—at least under the current leadership—will never honor its agreements. Hence, the announcement that Turkey (through the proxy of the Comoros) will litigate against Israel at the ICC. The IHH, the al-Qaeda-linked charity to which Turkey’s ruling party turned to promote the flotilla to resupply Hamas, released a statement explaining:
Those who doubted the wisdom of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in March had their first “I told you so” moment the very next day. Speaking to Turkish reporters, Erdogan appeared to immediately backtrack on his end of the rapprochement, which included dropping the case against the Israel Defense Forces for defending themselves from the Turkish-supported flotilla activists seeking to violently crash the naval blockade of the terrorist group Hamas.
A successful normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey would be beneficial to regional stability, so Netanyahu presumably offered the apology fully aware of the risks of dealing with Erdogan and believing they were outweighed by the rewards. But one of the reasons some opposed the apology at all was because they understandably feared it would legitimize the status of victimhood claimed by the violent invaders and endorse a frightful moral relativism which already undermines Israel’s attempts to defend itself.
But the moral relativism between the IDF and the armed naval invaders, while unfortunate, is fully eclipsed by the offensive and indefensible moral relativism Secretary of State John Kerry offered this weekend in trying to soothe Erdogan’s ego. According to the Associated Press:
Lest anyone need a reminder of just who was on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship which Israel lawfully stopped in international waters as it tried to run Israel’s blockade, the Turkish press is running a story today about how one of the families to whom the Israeli government is paying compensation are donating the Israeli money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. That money will most likely be used not to build industry or establish scholarships, but rather to subsidize further terrorism. Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad try to hide the fact that their goals are maximalist and genocidal. That these are the people that the Turkish government supports says a lot about the reality of Turkey.
Perhaps Israelis believe that the apology ends the dispute. Not so fast. It looks like the Turks are currently engaged in a bait-and-switch. As the Hürriyet Daily News reports:
Jonathan Tobin is absolutely right to dampen optimism regarding the restoration of Turkey-Israel ties following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology for the botched interception of the Mavi Marmara. Make no mistake, the apology is a disaster. Not only will it not lead to a revival of Israel-Turkey ties, but it will—in the long run—make them worse. Netanyahu has affirmed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strategy. Wishful thinking—be it Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza or Ehud Barak’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon—does not bring peace so long as enemies believe that terrorism or, in Erdoğan’s case, its facilitation and his support, has paid dividends.
Erdoğan is a deeply ideological man who, at his core, does not believe Israel should exist. It is a mistake for Turkey-watchers to dismiss Erdoğan’s rants, most recently his description of Zionism as a crime against humanity, as merely posturing for his central Anatolian base. Projection is perhaps the most corrosive mistake in which any analyst can engage. Incitement is not simply a strategy; sometimes, it truly is heartfelt. Just as with Yasir Arafat. And Khaled Meshaal. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And Mohammad Khatami. And Kim Jong-un.
For anyone who, despite the last decade of Turkish foreign policy, believes that the Turkish government is more interested in peace than in inciting hatred toward Israel, Turkey’s decision to host a puppet trial of Israeli leaders should put such notions to a rest. From Hürriyet:
The Mavi Marmara trial, known as the largest international trial thanks to citizens from 37 countries participating, will begin tomorrow in Istanbul’s Çağlayan court [Istanbul's Seventh High Criminal Court]. Prosecutors are demanding life sentences for Israel’s former Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, former Naval Forces Commander Eliezer Alfred Marom, former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlinir (sic) and former Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi, Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) Board member Gülden Sönmez said.
Desmond Tutu, the outspoken South African Nobel laureate, has long lent his voice to the most virulent criticism of Israel and its policies. Many of the fiercest critics of Israel, however, bend over backwards to deny any animosity toward Jews. Indeed, they could claim they’ve even supped with Noam Chomsky before.
Tutu, however, seems to have let his animosity toward Israel sully him and tarnish the Nobel Prize he wields as a symbol of supposed moral authority. He is a long-time endorser of the Free Gaza movement, the organization which brought us the Gaza “flotilla” and any number of other protests and marches. Greta Berlin, the American co-founder of Free Gaza, recently tweeted, “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” Free Gaza has also, according to the Jerusalem Post, claimed that the Jews supported Hitler.