Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mavi Marmara

Haneen Zoabi’s Threat to Nazareth’s Christian Heritage

At first glance, Haneen Zoabi might seem a strange candidate for Israeli efforts to burnish its democratic reputation abroad. Zoabi spends much of her time and energy trying to tear down Israel’s public image, and would have you believe Israel is no democracy at all, but rather an apartheid, fascist state. But that very same behavior is, to many, sufficient to disprove Zoabi’s claims.

That’s because Zoabi makes those claims from her perch as an Arab Muslim member of Israel’s Knesset. She keeps that lofty place in the parliament while doing far more than agitating against Zionism: her actions speak louder than–though still in concert with–her words. In 2010, Zoabi and another Arab legislator were passengers on the infamous Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship of armed activists attempting to break Israel’s military blockade of Gaza and to help the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip.

Now Zoabi is attempting to make a related career move, though this one would concern Israel’s Christian minority more than its Jewish majority. The New York Times notes that Zoabi’s entry into the Nazareth mayoral election threatens to unseat its mayor of 20 years as well as stir up local tensions:

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At first glance, Haneen Zoabi might seem a strange candidate for Israeli efforts to burnish its democratic reputation abroad. Zoabi spends much of her time and energy trying to tear down Israel’s public image, and would have you believe Israel is no democracy at all, but rather an apartheid, fascist state. But that very same behavior is, to many, sufficient to disprove Zoabi’s claims.

That’s because Zoabi makes those claims from her perch as an Arab Muslim member of Israel’s Knesset. She keeps that lofty place in the parliament while doing far more than agitating against Zionism: her actions speak louder than–though still in concert with–her words. In 2010, Zoabi and another Arab legislator were passengers on the infamous Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship of armed activists attempting to break Israel’s military blockade of Gaza and to help the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip.

Now Zoabi is attempting to make a related career move, though this one would concern Israel’s Christian minority more than its Jewish majority. The New York Times notes that Zoabi’s entry into the Nazareth mayoral election threatens to unseat its mayor of 20 years as well as stir up local tensions:

There is a lot to be said for tradition and continuity in a city revered by Christians as the childhood home of Jesus. Though the city’s population of 80,000 is now about 70 percent Muslim, much of the economy of Nazareth, considered the capital of Israel’s Arab minority, depends on the tourism generated by its Christian past.

“This is one of the most well-known cities in the world, the place where Christianity started,” said Mr. Jaraisi, a Christian, whose hair and mustache have turned white on the job.

But others in Nazareth say it is time for change. Mr. Jaraisi has been elected mayor four times, with the votes of both Muslims and Christians, he is quick to point out. Now, in the municipal elections scheduled for Israel’s local authorities on Tuesday, he is facing a serious challenge.

Even if the city weren’t majority-Muslim there would be nothing inherently upsetting, one would hope, about the prospect of a Muslim candidate defeating a Christian candidate for the mayoralty. Nazareth is symbolic of Israel’s Christian minority; that they happen to be a minority in Nazareth isn’t exactly shocking.

But the Times projects an air of nervousness in the city about Jaraisi’s possible defeat at Zoabi’s hands, and this has much to do with how Zoabi personifies two trends in the Arab world that have not been too kind to Christians. The first, and most obvious trend, is referred to outright in the Times piece:

One of the challenges that Mr. Jaraisi is facing is what Wadie Abu Nassar, an Arab Israeli political analyst, calls “the Arab Spring argument — that it is time to change.” Another is an accusation of mismanagement, Mr. Abu Nassar said.

As just the latest brutal attack on Egyptian Copts attests, the Arab Spring does not conjure images of freedom for the Christians of the Arab world. It has instead been open season on this persecuted minority, and any suggestion that the tide of the Arab Spring would come to Nazareth would be a frightening prospect, to say the least.

And Zoabi has long been at the forefront of the other trend, though the Times’s subtle presentation of it shows its mainstream appeal:

Nazareth, Ms. Zoabi said, should be a cultural center for the 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. “Nazareth is not just a city,” she said. “It is a symbol of the homeland that we lost.”

Notice that first part is not in quotes. The reporter, Isabel Kershner, simply writes that Israel’s Arabs are all Palestinians. The identification of Israeli Arabs as Palestinians is not automatic or universal. Israeli Arabs who consider themselves Palestinians tend to either claim roots in Mandatory Palestine before 1948 or consider the entire State of Israel occupied territory and an illegitimate state. (Or both.)

Zoabi embraces this merging of the Palestinian identity with the Israeli-Arab identity–which, in many cases, simply replaces Arab identity with Zoabi’s ideology of armed resistance against the state in whose parliament she serves. It erases, for example, the identity of Israel’s Arab Christians who don’t identify with the Palestinian cause.

In July, a group of Greek Orthodox Christians in Israel formed a political party to support Arab participation in the Israel Defense Forces. The group was led by a Christian Arab from Nazareth and had the support of Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest against whom Zoabi reportedly led a vicious campaign and who was banned from entering Nazareth’s famed Church of the Annunciation for his show of patriotism and loyalty to Israel.

These Arab Christians from Nazareth (and elsewhere) proudly identify as Israelis. Zoabi and the New York Times plainly ignore that and label them Palestinian. The only way, in fact, that the categorization of all Israel’s Arabs as Palestinians could make any sense (to use that term loosely) is to someone who believes that the entire land is rightfully and legally Palestine. That Zoabi seems to buy into this bodes ill for Nazareth’s Christians. That the Times plays along suggests the media’s attitude toward the plight of Christians under the Arab Spring, which often borders on indifference, will only continue.

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Turks Take Israel to ICC; Break Agreement with Israel

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:

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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:

After Palestine gained ‘observer state’ status at the UN, Israel realized the seriousness of this case and entered into every illegitimate effort in order to remain exempt from these judgments, avoid the risk of being penalized, and to maintain unaccountable policies which do not recognize the law. However with this application and case filed on behalf of the Union of Comoros, Israel will have nowhere to escape from the war crimes it has committed.

Ankara is about as trustworthy when it comes to its negotiators’ word as Pyongyang, Khartoum, or Tehran. It seeks not justice, but Israel’s eradication. The fact that this occurs just two days before President Obama hosts Erdoğan at the White House is nothing but one more attempt by the Turkish leader to fake friendship at the White House, all the while signaling to his constituents that he has restored Turkish pride not only by targeting Israel, but by humiliating the United States as well.

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Turk Donates Israeli Compensation to Terrorists

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:

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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:

The families have not yet made their final decision as to whether accept the compensation that will eventually be offered by Israel and withdraw from cases against Israeli soldiers, according to sources.  [Deputy Prime Minister Bülent] Arınç said yesterday that the families had said that “any words about compensation would sadden them. The core of the issue is the apology and lifting of the embargo [on the Gaza Strip]. The government’s work on compensation would be right for them as well.”

In other words, the Turkish government will pocket the apology, but might still allow the lawsuits which the Israeli government fears to proceed.

Benjamin Netanyahu once positioned himself as serious about counterterrorism. His 2001 book, Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists, urged a tough line. Who would have thought, just 12 years later, his government would effectively be subsidizing them.

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Should Bibi Have Said No to Turkey Talk?

Much of the commentary about President Obama’s brokering of a supposed reconciliation between Israel and Turkey has broken down into two categories: those extolling the president’s supposed diplomatic magic and those who have castigated Prime Minister Netanyahu for going along with the charade. I tried to pour some cold water on the former on Sunday when I wrote that Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s hasty backtracking on the agreement as well as the entire character of his Islamist government rendered the exercise pointless. Michael Rubin, who knows far more about Turkey than almost anybody you can think of who comments about it in the American press, is right to point out how dangerous Erdoğan is and the malevolent nature of his regime.

But I think it’s a mistake to portray Netanyahu’s decision to accede to Obama’s desire for the call as something that will materially harm Israel’s security, as some on the right have asserted. The apology over the Mavi Marmara incident is being portrayed in some quarters as a dangerous dereliction of duty on Netanyahu’s part that potentially opens up Israel’s armed forces to future legal attacks, as well as a sign that the prime minister is acquiescing to banana republic status with respect to the United States. While I share the cynicism about Turkey’s goals and Obama’s naïveté, Netanyahu doesn’t deserve the abuse he’s taking on this issue.

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Much of the commentary about President Obama’s brokering of a supposed reconciliation between Israel and Turkey has broken down into two categories: those extolling the president’s supposed diplomatic magic and those who have castigated Prime Minister Netanyahu for going along with the charade. I tried to pour some cold water on the former on Sunday when I wrote that Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s hasty backtracking on the agreement as well as the entire character of his Islamist government rendered the exercise pointless. Michael Rubin, who knows far more about Turkey than almost anybody you can think of who comments about it in the American press, is right to point out how dangerous Erdoğan is and the malevolent nature of his regime.

But I think it’s a mistake to portray Netanyahu’s decision to accede to Obama’s desire for the call as something that will materially harm Israel’s security, as some on the right have asserted. The apology over the Mavi Marmara incident is being portrayed in some quarters as a dangerous dereliction of duty on Netanyahu’s part that potentially opens up Israel’s armed forces to future legal attacks, as well as a sign that the prime minister is acquiescing to banana republic status with respect to the United States. While I share the cynicism about Turkey’s goals and Obama’s naïveté, Netanyahu doesn’t deserve the abuse he’s taking on this issue.

As much as I share the sentiments of those who would prefer that Israel tell Erdoğan to stuff it, Netanyahu’s decision was not a craven collapse or merely the function of unconscionable pressure by Obama.

Israel had, after all, made several previous attempts to put the Mavi Marmara dust-up in the past. It’s not clear that the “apology” delivered last week went any further than previous expressions of Israeli regret. Nor was there anything new about offers to compensate families of those Turks killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the ship.

It bears repeating that Israel was in the right in defending the blockade of Gaza and that the Turkish supporters of Hamas who, with the connivance of their government, were staging this provocation were doing nothing to help the people of Gaza or advance the cause of peace. But that does not mean that Netanyahu was wrong to admit that the operation was “botched” or that his government was sorry that civilians, no matter how wrongheaded or malevolent their motives might have been, were killed. When Netanyahu ordered the seizure of the ship he did not intend for any of its passengers or crew to be killed, even if they did violently resist. There is a difference between asserting that Israel had every right to stop the ship and saying that the seizure went as planned, since it obviously did not.

The fears that this admission will open up Israel to lawsuits in international courts or undermine its right of self-defense are similarly mistaken. Israel was already under siege in such forums and Netanyahu’s limited measure won’t advance or retard any efforts to turn it into a pariah.

Nor did the phone call transform Netanyahu from a thorn in Obama’s side to the status of a client state lickspittle, as some of his critics would have it.

The phone call took place in the context of a state visit in which Obama went farther than any of his predecessors in making the case for Zionism and Jewish rights. As much as it is difficult for some of his critics to admit it, after years of acting as if he cared nothing for Israel, it was Obama who gave ground last week, not Netanyahu.

Obama virtually endorsed Netanyahu’s demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and, in a major shift in U.S. policy from that of the previous four years, peace negotiations must come with no preconditions. No less a conservative critic of Obama than scholar Daniel Pipes noted that this “broke new ground and cannot be readily undone.” While many who have rightly assailed the president for his policies toward Israel during his first term focused on his foolish embrace of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his call for Israeli youth to pressure their government to make peace, those empty words pale in significance when compared to Obama’s other comments while in Israel.

If, in exchange for these unexpected and important concessions on Obama’s part, Netanyahu had to suffer through a phone call with the likes of Erdoğan, that seems a paltry price to pay.

This sort of thing grates on the sensibilities of some Israelis who resent their nation’s dependence on the United States. Such feelings are understandable, but if some on the right think the country would really be better off on its own, they need to get their heads examined. As much as Israel prides itself on its right to defend itself by itself—an important phrase that was also echoed by Obama last week—that ability is based in no small measure by the strategic alliance with the United States.

Netanyahu has already demonstrated that he is not so intimidated by the need for U.S. support as to allow Obama to force him to give way on issues that were matters of principle or security. Contrary to the claims of some of its critics, Israel has the right to say no to Washington and has done so several times in the past.

But a leader has to be able to distinguish between those requests by its ally that ought to be rejected as dangerous and those which, however misguided, should be accepted for the sake of goodwill. Though I don’t disagree with the concerns being expressed about Turkey—whose efforts to bolster Hamas and to force a unity government on Abbas will undermine the already remote chances for peace—and think Obama deserves to be critiqued for his inexplicable friendship with the Turkish leader, I can’t agree with those who think Netanyahu made a mistake in going along on the Erdoğan call.

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Netanyahu Apology Short-Sighted

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.

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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.

Erdoğan’s temper-tantrums may make him look like a buffoon in Western eyes, but he is a man deeply consumed by a sense of grievance. This is why he has sued political cartoonists for little more sin than depicting him as a cat tangled in a ball of string. Stacked courts ensure he wins his cases, and bolster his sense of righteousness. Every time he engages in brinkmanship, he finds himself rewarded.

What’s next in Turkey-Israel relations? Certainly not rapprochement. By paying compensation to the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara, Netanyahu is effectively funding terrorists. The Mavi Marmara had one purpose: supplying Hamas. After all, the health of Gazans is generally better than that of Turks. The Turkish press is arguing that the lifting of the Gaza blockade—irrespective of Hamas’ actions—is now looming.

What’s Erdoğan’s next step? He has announced that he will soon go to Gaza during which trip he will renew his calls for lifting the blockade and enjoy Hamas treating him like a conquering hero. Already, the Palestinian Authority is nervous over how Erdoğan might bolster its terrorist brethren. Make no mistake: It’s not just Obama to blame for what comes next. Netanyahu could always have said no.

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Turks Illustrate Limits of Obama’s Magic

President Obama was already basking in the good review of his trip to Israel when he added what is being seen as yet another bold stroke to his list of accomplishments. Just before he left Israel, he brokered a phone call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which the two seemingly resolved the long running dispute about the Mavi Marmara incident. The president is being praised for his persistence in pushing Netanyahu to make the call and for persuading his good friend Erdoğan to accept it. This has caused Obama’s cheerleaders at the New York Times to say that his “talent for arm-twisting” has “raised hopes” that the president might have similar success in making peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Though the Times is sober enough to note that the Israel-Palestinian tangle is sufficiently complicated as to resist even the president’s magic touch, it did accept the claim that the call “healed the rift between the two countries” at face value. But other sympathetic observers were not able to restrain their enthusiasm. Writing in Canada’s National Post, Jonathan Kay not only noted with satisfaction my appreciation for the improvement in Obama’s stand on Israel but also extolled the president’s efforts to achieve “a resumption of the Israel-Turkish alliance.”

But apparently the hosannas about the president’s achievement are a little premature. Less than a day after the supposed reconciliation Erdoğan was already backtracking, saying that the resumption of normal relations, let alone the old alliance between the two countries, was still on hold. It is to be hoped that a dose of reality will cool the ardor of those, like Kay, who believe Obama’s “much mocked faith in diplomacy and human rationality” has been vindicated.

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President Obama was already basking in the good review of his trip to Israel when he added what is being seen as yet another bold stroke to his list of accomplishments. Just before he left Israel, he brokered a phone call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which the two seemingly resolved the long running dispute about the Mavi Marmara incident. The president is being praised for his persistence in pushing Netanyahu to make the call and for persuading his good friend Erdoğan to accept it. This has caused Obama’s cheerleaders at the New York Times to say that his “talent for arm-twisting” has “raised hopes” that the president might have similar success in making peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Though the Times is sober enough to note that the Israel-Palestinian tangle is sufficiently complicated as to resist even the president’s magic touch, it did accept the claim that the call “healed the rift between the two countries” at face value. But other sympathetic observers were not able to restrain their enthusiasm. Writing in Canada’s National Post, Jonathan Kay not only noted with satisfaction my appreciation for the improvement in Obama’s stand on Israel but also extolled the president’s efforts to achieve “a resumption of the Israel-Turkish alliance.”

But apparently the hosannas about the president’s achievement are a little premature. Less than a day after the supposed reconciliation Erdoğan was already backtracking, saying that the resumption of normal relations, let alone the old alliance between the two countries, was still on hold. It is to be hoped that a dose of reality will cool the ardor of those, like Kay, who believe Obama’s “much mocked faith in diplomacy and human rationality” has been vindicated.

Erdoğan’s double dealing on normalization even after Netanyahu’s call is hardly surprising. This is, after all, the same person who recently compared Zionism to fascism and whose regime has encouraged anti-Semitism as it transformed a secular republic into an Islamist regime in all but name. The Mavi Marmara incident, in which a flotilla of ships sponsored by Turkey attempted to run the Israeli blockade of Hamas-run Gaza, was intended to provoke an Israeli attack. While, as Netanyahu admitted, the raid on the ship appears to have been botched by Israeli forces, Ankara’s purpose was to create a pretext for a complete break. This was the end of a process begun years earlier by Erdoğan, not a spontaneous reaction to anything Israel had done.

Thus, no one should be holding their breath waiting for Turkey’s ambassador to return to Israel anytime soon. As for resuming the alliance, it needs to be understood that all those Turks that worked to create the formerly warm relations between Ankara and Jerusalem are no longer involved in the government. Indeed, the main constituency for close relations was secular military officers, and Erdoğan has jailed many of them.

As for what Kay termed a “pride-swallowing apology,” it should also be understood that it didn’t take any “arm-twisting” or diplomatic skill from Obama to force Israel to express regret for the Mavi Marmara incident. Netanyahu had done so years ago. He had also previously offered compensation for the families of those killed while attacking Israeli soldiers on the ship. Netanyahu’s government has made several efforts to solve the impasse over the incident but had been repeatedly rebuffed, not just because of insufficient contrition on Israel’s part but because Erdoğan had no interest in ending the dispute. Indeed, in the day after the phone call, Erdoğan reiterated his determination to make a state visit to Gaza solidifying his alliance with the Hamas terrorists.

So long as Turkey is committed to supporting Hamas, normal relations will be difficult, if not impossible. While there may be issues on which the two countries may be able to cooperate, such as the crisis in Syria, a resumption of the alliance between the Jewish state and Erdoğan’s Islamist state is a fantasy.

To point this out is not a criticism of Obama so much as it is reality check for those who are so besotted with the notion that American diplomacy can remake the Middle East in the image of America’s hopes. What little good the president may have done in brokering the Netanyahu-Erdoğan call should not be represented as a blueprint for a new diplomatic offensive from Obama or Secretary of State Kerry. The president’s faith in and friendship for Erdoğan calls his judgment into question. The same is true about his assertion that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace. The president didn’t solve the differences between Turkey and Israel because they are the product of a shift in Turkish politics that cannot be undone by anything Americans say or do. The same is true of any ideas about bridging the gap between Israel and Palestinian leaders who have no interest in signing a peace accord. 

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Turkey Puts Israel on Trial

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.

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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.

Never mind that the United Nations investigated the incident and largely exculpated Israel. And never mind that the IHH channels money to al-Qaeda. The trial is important, however, because it demonstrates once again how Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan views the judiciary less as a means for independent justice and more as a mechanism for political show trials. It also shows how misguided those in Israel or America have been who believe that apologizing to ideologues like Erdoğan can ever ameliorate conflict.

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Erdoğan: We Don’t Want Israeli Tourists

Even prior to his party’s embrace of the Mavi Marmara attempt to break the blockade of Gaza, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has held both Israel and, more broadly, Jews in deep disdain. While Turkish diplomats may say that Turkey’s problem with Israel involves its government and not its people, no one gave Erdoğan that memo. From Hürriyet Daily News:

“We don’t need Israeli tourists,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying. “Thirty-one million tourists came to Turkey last year. Israel’s tourism boycott won’t affect us.” Erdoğan said Israel needed to take three necessary steps if it wanted to improve bilateral relations with Turkey, namely, apologizing for the commando raid that killed nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara in 2010, paying compensation to their families and removing the blockade against Gaza.

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Even prior to his party’s embrace of the Mavi Marmara attempt to break the blockade of Gaza, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has held both Israel and, more broadly, Jews in deep disdain. While Turkish diplomats may say that Turkey’s problem with Israel involves its government and not its people, no one gave Erdoğan that memo. From Hürriyet Daily News:

“We don’t need Israeli tourists,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying. “Thirty-one million tourists came to Turkey last year. Israel’s tourism boycott won’t affect us.” Erdoğan said Israel needed to take three necessary steps if it wanted to improve bilateral relations with Turkey, namely, apologizing for the commando raid that killed nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara in 2010, paying compensation to their families and removing the blockade against Gaza.

Interestingly, Erdoğan and his Interior Minister have yet to outright apologize for his government’s massacre of 34 villagers last December. When the Wall Street Journal recently reported on the Uledere massacre, Erdoğan blamed “the Jewish lobby.”

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