After last week’s disastrous fires in northern Israel–and the surprise help from Turkey—reports have emerged of the Netanyahu government making renewed efforts at restoring amicable relations between the two countries.
It is certainly appropriate for PM Netanyahu to issue public and private thanks to Turkey and to PM Erdogan for the assistance.
But what has surprised observers is the way the occasion is being used to get back to the diplomatic table. Yet more surprising is Netanyahu’s apparent willingness to apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident in order to get on Turkey’s good side. That idea is not going over so well. Some members of Israel’s government (including the Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, and various & sundry MKs) have pointed out that if anyone owes anybody an apology, it’s Turkey that ought to apologize to Israel for sponsoring last May’s attack by hired thugs on Israeli naval personnel.
The way this is being handled calls into question the sincerity of Turkey’s help in fighting the fires. Then again, in international politics and relations it should not come as too much of a shock if one country’s aid to another in a time of crisis is really not so much out of humanitarian concerns as it is to gain some sort of public advantage. We may consider this especially so on the part of a regime with a less than honorable track record.
And then there’s the component of Islamic religious zeal on the part of Erdogan. It’s difficult to get inside his head, but certainly most of his anti-Israel rhetoric of late has been couched more in religious terms than in terms of practical political or diplomatic considerations.
But then again, how much of that is merely in consideration of internal as well as international politics? Quite a lot, surprisingly or not, according to this recent report in the Turkish media. (Thank Wikileaks once again for the insider information.)
And while I was composing this I saw an analysis by Professor Barry Rubin of how the Arab media and Arab leaders talk and talk and talk about fighting Israeli “aggression,” but when push comes to shove, they have a tendency to sit back and hope somebody else will do the dirty work. True in 1948, true in 1956, and still true in 2010. True of Jordan, true of Egypt, true of Turkey…
So what is Bibi trying to accomplish by going hat in hand to Erdogan? And if you can answer that, my next question might be, is it worth the effort? Israel will be, with or without Turkey’s (or Jordan’s or Egypt’s or the US’s or anyone else’s) good will. Other than that, I don’t have the answers, either.
So we wait, and watch, and hope.