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Obama’s tarmac diplomacy between Israel and Turkey looks like more political theater, without pressure

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Remember when Obama brokered a breakthrough between stalemated leaders of Israel and Turkey at Ben-Gurion airporton his trip to Israel and Palestine back in March?

Well now there is a standstill over the Turkey/Israel reconciliation because neither side is backing down. Israel finally apologized in March for the nine killings on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and offered financial compensation. Turkey says it’s not the money, it’s the legal definition of the damages; and Israel won’t accept liability for the killings by Israeli commandos of Turkish and American humanitarians aboard the boat as a “wrongful act”.

But that’s not all. The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday Turkey also wants Israel to  “lift its blockade on Gaza,” and that was followed by an Israeli official claiming  ”they want to bring us to our knees.”

Israeli official: Turkey wants to humiliate Israel, not reconcile with it :

Turkey is not interested in a diplomatic reconciliation with Israel, but rather in humiliating it and bringing it to its knees, Israeli officials said on Thursday.


One Israeli official said that Arinc’s comments reveal that Ankara is not genuinely interested in settling the dispute over the Mavi Marmara with Israel, but rather the aim is to humiliate Jerusalem.

“All of a sudden he says the money is not the issue. Indeed, they want to bring us to our knees and read the text that they dictate to us.”……One senior Israeli official, when asked several weeks ago about the Turks apparent adding on conditions before returning their ambassador to Israel, replied that “enough is enough,”

So: Was that all a show for Obama’s visit? The article ends on this note:

One Israeli official said on Thursday that while there was US pressure in the past on Israel to make gestures to reconcile with Turkey, there are currently no such demands. Netanyahu did what the Americans expected him to do, the official said, and from their standpoint this whole episode should now be over.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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8 Responses

  1. just
    July 27, 2013, 11:03 am

    “Netanyahu did what the Americans expected him to do, the official said, and from their standpoint this whole episode should now be over.”

    Tell that to the survivors of the murdered peaceful folks with a conscience.

    “But that’s not all. The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday Turkey also wants Israel to “lift its blockade on Gaza,” and that was followed by an Israeli official claiming “they want to bring us to our knees.””

    LOL– Israel can barely mutter an insincere apology for anything. Israel as it exists today deserves to fall on her collective knees, but they will never, ever admit any wrongs/crimes committed by their Apartheid and thieving government. And the US obediently follows suit, and the Pied Piper of Israel keeps playing the tune.

    Enough IS enough, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama and the cretins on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

    • OlegR
      July 27, 2013, 6:43 pm

      /Tell that to the survivors of the murdered peaceful folks with a conscience./

      Oh, do cry me a river.

      • just
        July 29, 2013, 5:19 am

        Sadly, Obsidian, you prove over and over that you have no conscience.

        It’s a shame really– you expose the very worst of your “cause”. Just imagine if it had been peaceful folks that were murdered while on a mission to deliver goods and hope to Jewish Israeli people…………..the world would never hear the end of it, and no “apology” would ever be enough.

  2. Justpassingby
    July 27, 2013, 11:49 am

    Turkey have said from the beginning that normalization can only come if the blockade is lifted.
    And Israel didnt “apologize”, thats the headline the media used. Rather it seems that Israel just stated its regret of the loss of life.

    Having said that, Turkey and Israel already have good relationship (in secret), but Turkey dont dare saying that publicly because they want to be seen as the primary anti-Israel force in the region.

  3. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 27, 2013, 7:12 pm

    What utter nonsense, the notion or contention Turkey “wants to bring Israel to its knees”.

  4. Hostage
    July 27, 2013, 11:46 pm

    The fact is that Turkish officials always said that there were three conditions for normalizing relations with Israel: 1) an apology; 2) compensation for victims or their surviving family members; and 3) an end to the blockade of Gaza. Erdogan reminded these hard of hearing people about that last March:

    “We have said: An apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” [said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan]. See Turkey conditions normalization on Israel ending Gaza blockade, compensating for flotilla. Resuming normal ties with Israel will take time, PM Erdogan clarifies: Israel must make good on its promises first. Haaretz/AP Mar. 24, 2013

  5. Walid
    July 28, 2013, 10:53 am

    Annie, the theatre is in the phony friction between the countries. Otherwise, it’s business as usual between the Israelis and the Turks. After the Obama visit/apology, there has been joint military exercises between the 2 countries, the Israeli attack on Latakia from the Turkish air base and the following from the NYT of a couple of months back:

    Israeli officials and analysts say they do not see a return to the intimate Israeli-Turkish alliance of past decades, when the Israeli, Turkish and American Navies carried out joint exercises in the Mediterranean and Israeli fighter jets trained in Turkey’s relatively vast airspace.

    Yet bilateral trade is thriving, and in recent months Turkish exporters have started using Israel as a trade corridor, with Turkish shipping lines docking in Israeli ports, then transporting goods overland to Jordan and other Arab countries in order to bypass the bloody civil war in Syria.

    “This is not so much about going back to the old alliance,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss, an expert on Turkey at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, “but about lowering the level of hostility between the two countries.”

    Israeli officials view the trade corridor as an important, even strategic, development. Ms. Lindenstrauss said it showed Turkish recognition of Israel as a stable partner when much of the Middle East is in turmoil. Any improvement in the atmosphere between the leaders, she added, would be likely to contribute to increased cooperation at the unofficial level.

    … At the same time, trade between the two countries peaked at $4 billion in 2011, split almost evenly between imports and exports, according to Israel’s Ministry of Economy, up from $300 million in 1997 after a Free Trade Arrangement was signed. A ministry report said private trade was not affected by the flotilla episode, although government and defense contracts had dropped off. Some Israelis note that had it not happened, there could have been even greater commercial growth.

    In the past, trade between the two countries was mostly defense related, but in more recent years that market has been overtaken by civilian goods. Among other things, Israel imports textiles and minerals from Turkey while Turkey imports chemicals, agricultural equipment and seeds.

    One question that may be answered in part this summer is whether Turkey will go back to being a favorite destination for Israeli vacationers. All-inclusive packages to Turkey’s coastal resorts attracted up to half a million Israeli tourists a year until the flotilla episode brought tourism almost to a halt.

    The day after Mr. Netanyahu offered his apology, Israeli television stations sent correspondents to Antalya to check out the new luxury hotels that had opened up. Some vendors in the local markets showed off their Hebrew and said that they would welcome the Israelis back.

    • annie
      July 28, 2013, 3:18 pm

      walid, that nyt article written by isabel kershner had multiple quotes by israelis and was likely part of a hasbara image of turkey and israel as having lots of trade opportunity. but there were hardly any quotes by turkey. in fact:

      the Turks kept a low profile, and the sides put out a brief statement revealing little about the discussions other than to say that an agreement was near.

      meanwhile israel and turkey have a history of trade and no doubt business people want that trade to resume and right after the ‘apology’ interested parties (probably kerry/the US) took advantage of the hiatus to get this joint exercise in place.

      in the first jpost article above:

      In our first meeting [the Israelis] showed no opposition to this. But in the second meeting, they intended to give an ex gratia payment as a form of reparation because they fear compensation [as a result of their wrongful act] will set an example for other cases,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, according to Hürriyet.

      get it? they have their first meeting and allude they will be forthcoming and the military exercises take place. after they take place israel reveals it has no intention of acknowledging responsibility for a wrongful act.

      but my hunch is there are probably people in the government who are not so happy and you may recall abbas in turkey last year exploring turkish support for ICC action pursued the turkish law firm. your article is dated 5/6. it’s the nyt. i think there’s a reason it was stuffed w/quotes from israeli officials. israel has no intention of fulfilling turkey’s request.



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