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Issues of the Day Slight Movement: Israel and Turkey

Many Israelis, and undoubtedly many Turkish citizens, breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement that Turkey had responded to President Shimon Peres' offer of aid to Turkey following the devastating earthquake in that country's east earlier this week. After months of hostile statements and comments from leaders of both countries, Turkey's willingness to accept Israeli aid recalled the recent, now wounded, friendship between the two Mediterranean nations. The delivery of humanitarian assistance began today.


The events of May 2010 when a flotilla of foreign ships attempted to break the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) siege of Hamas-controlled Gaza, was a watershed in Israeli-Turkey relations. After a Turkish ship challenged the Israeli Navy's orders that it desist from running the blockade, a violent confrontation took place when IDF commandos attempted to stop it.  In the period since then, the decades-long economic, defense and tourism ties between the two states unraveled.


In recent months, leaders of both countries have engaged in brinkmanship over who was to blame for the imbroglio. Relations reached a nadir after the UN commission investigating the events found that Israel was within its rights in enforcing the blockade, though it had used undue force in boarding the Turkish vessel.  Israel has refused Ankara's demands that it apologize for the death of the protestors on the ship, and in early September of this year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspended all defense ties with Israel.   

The fray actually predates the May 2010 incident. Relations had been strained since the previous January, when Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon deliberately and publically humiliated the Turkish ambassador while rebuking him for a libelous television show about the IDF on Turkish TV.  


Tensions had already been building on both sides.  Ayalon, a confident and fellow member of Foreign Mister Avigdor Lieberman in the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, has often served as a point man for his belligerent boss; he seemed to relish the opportunity of launching a broadside against the Turks. Prime Minister Erdogan heated the brew with increasingly antagonistic statements about Israel and his pro-Gaza advocacy.  Subsequently, the mudslinging continued from both Ankara and Jerusalem with muscle-flexing and a chasm in relations being the inevitable result.


Despite the strain, Turkey was among the countries that provided badly needed assistance in combating the Mount Carmel fire in 2010. Now, another natural disaster, the earthquake in the vicinity of Van, has brought a respite from the politicking.

I believe that many, perhaps most of the problems that beset the Middle East will come much closer to resolution when a spirit of cooperation, rather than hostility, prevails among the peoples here.


One hopes that a new spirit will soon bring a rapprochement betwee Israel and Turkey. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved