Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is upping the ante in the spat he precipitated with Israel about the Mavi Marmara last year. On Saturday, Erdoğan issued an ultimatum that should the Israeli government not apologize by Wednesday for stopping the Turkish ship which had announced its intention to violate the blockade of Gaza, Turkey will implement its “Plan B” that might include an Erdoğan state visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza, and a further reduction of Turkey’s diplomatic representation in Israel to that of a second secretary.
Let’s hope Jerusalem does not buckle to Ankara’s threats. First, Erdoğan’s demand that Israel apologize to Turkey is analogous to a burglar demanding compensation for being cut by broken glass during a break-in. Second, Israel’s willingness to consider concessions simply encourages the State Department and the European Union to demand further concessions. After all, when it comes to Middle Eastern obstinacy, Israel is a weak third to Turkey and most Arab states. Diplomats seeking “progress” will always pursue the path of least resistance in order to show movement.
Enhancing the irony of the current situation is Turkey’s willingness to engage uncritically with Hamas while at the same time loading its dialogue with Israel and, for that matter, many American Jews with demands. According to two separate sources in Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, the Turkish embassy in Washington maintains a blacklist of certain Jews with whom not to engage. The implication Erdoğan and Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan make: Hamas terrorists are okay no matter how violent, but for Turkey, Jews are verboten.