Israeli Insult and Apology to Turkey – Why?
31 January, 2010
A different viewpoint: Israel wanted to stop being Turkey's scapegoat -
By Andre Mozes*
2010 Jan 31
Most analysts seemed baffled by the recent scandal caused by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister publicly humiliating Turkey's ambassador to Israel, and of the following cautious Israeli apology, which was immediately accepted by the Turkish PM. All news and analysts condemned the Israeli DFM's improper behavior. But why would an experienced and gifted professional diplomat, acting as Deputy Foreign Minister in the present Israeli government, do such a thing!? We wish to shine an unusual and positive light on these events.
Most reports and articles, like ‘Israeli Defense Minister Visits Turkey to Mend Frayed Ties' in the New York Times of January 18, described correctly the recent sequence of events: the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkey's ambassador, Mr. Ahmet Celikkol to Jerusalem, and publicly humiliated him by having him seated on a lower sofa and even pointing this out provocatively. But this was done only days after the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Taip (Tayeep) Erdogan accused Israel again of threatening world peace and an old and discredited anti-Israel blood-libel was featured on Turkish television. What the reports did not accept was Ayalon's behavior.
This insult the subsequent apology cannot be properly understood and handled out of full context, and it is worth the effort: this quarrel can bring a breach in the once most important pro-American, pro-Western alliance in the Middle East.
The once very good relations between official Turkey and Israel (still prevailing between the two peoples) had already been slowly melting away since the last elections in Turkey ensured to Taip Erdogan's Muslim AK party a strong majority. But the recent year-long higher tension between the two countries erupted at the Davos world economic forum in February 2009, where Prime Minister Erdogan criticized Israel's Gaza operation so rudely and out of reality that even the dovish Israeli President, Shimon Peres, had to refute him on the spot.
Since then Erdogan continued to regularly declaim the worst unfounded Palestinian anti-Israel propaganda phrases. Neither conciliatory Israeli diplomatic efforts nor sending reliable counter-information succeeded in moderating Erdogan; he apparently chose to ride rising Islamist sentiments in Ankara's streets, and to appease his new Iranian friend, President Ahmadinejad.
Last but not least, Erdogan's anti-Israel tirades might have been intended also to suppress the subjects of Turkey's past genocide of Armenians and present violent oppression of Kurds.
I hope that the following childhood experience may help to place the seemingly chaotic events described above into a logical frame. As a Jewish boy in tense post-WWII Europe, I was frequently vexed in school by bullies. I read and loved then the Scottish writer, A. J. Cronin's wonderful book ‘The Green Years', about a Catholic Irish orphan, Robert Shannon, living in Protestant Scotland, and troubled in school daily by bullies. Until, at his great grandfather's advice, Robert, a previously shy boy, provoked, and desperately and fiercely fought the strongest boy in class. The fight ended with Robert physically defeated but not giving up, and this put an end to the bullying. I liked and followed Robert's method, and it succeeded in stopping the bullying in my school too.
What Israel did was much the same: to stand up to mistreatment. When several diplomatic attempts, including an Israeli cabinet minister's discreet visit to Ankara already failed to calm down the Turkish PM, then Israel's Ayalon gave that strong, blunt and undiplomatic lesson to Turkey's Ambassador - and then diplomatically apologized. This was clearly a pre-arranged well needed reminder that Israel does not intend to play any more the role of easy prey and convenient whipping boy for Mr. Erdogan.
This interlude, we hope, will end the bullying and allow the two sides to mend the fences between the two countries.
*Endre (Andre) MOZES is the founder and chairman of Take-A-Pen, an international, multilingual (18) grass-roots network acting for the truth about Israel in the Middle East http://www.takeapen.org/