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March 27, 2013

Israel should never have apologized

Ted Belman. The apology sets a bad precedent. We should never apologize when we are in the right. When our enemies are in the wrong we should demand they apologize. Even if the package deal included Obama demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we still shouldn’t have apologized. As we know this is short form for rejecting the right of return. As for Obama demanding negotiations to reach an agreement, he did this in the first term. He also supported Netanyahu’s position that there be no pre-conditions to negotiations. Obviously, since Obama offered concessions to Israel rather than demands, he wasn’t prepared to back away from demanding a divided Jerusalem and ’67 lines with swaps.

Israeli Apology May Restore Turkey’s Regional Influence

By Semih Idiz for Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse.

The apology, whose timing took many — this writer included — by surprise, however, also provides Turkey a chance to regain its lost political influence in a region where it once appeared set to play a key role as a major mediator.

Turkey and Israel will also have a chance to cooperate in the energy field, following the discovery of vast gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, since the most economically profitable way of carrying the gas to world markets is through Turkey, according to industry experts.

Israel’s apology caught many off-guard coming as it did at a time when the already bad atmosphere in ties was soured further after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent remarks, during a UN forum in Vienna, in which said “Zionism” should be considered a “crime against humanity.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had responded angrily, saying this was “a dark and mendacious statement,” while Erdogan was also rebuked by Washington and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

None of this suggested a dramatic reconciliation between Turkey and Israel was in the offing. Particularly after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded to criticism of Erdogan’s “Zionism” remark defiantly, saying Turkey would never look on as Israel continued its aggressive policies.

Diplomats have been working for some time behind the scenes, of course, trying to reconcile the two countries. Perhaps more should also have been read into the recent decision by Israel to allow the sale of advanced electronic systems to the Turkish air force worth $200 million. The same could be said for Ankara’s partial lifting in December of its vetoes in NATO against joint alliance initiatives with Israel.

But after Erdogan’s “Zionism” remarks there was no inkling that Netanyahu was about to bite the bullet and take a politically risky step for himself at home. As it turned out, former hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not waste time in speaking out against the apology.

Referring to Netanyahu’s decision as “serious mistake,” he said “Erdogan’s refusal to apologize for his explicitly anti-Zionist remarks alongside the Israeli apology hurts Israel’s dignity and status in the region and the world.”

But the “clarification” by Erdogan of his “Zionism” remark, in an interview with the Danish daily Politiken, where he said he had only criticized Israeli policies, and added he had always spoken out against anti-Semitism, seems to have been sufficient for President Barack Obama to convince Netanyahu, during his recent visit to Israel, to apologize to Turkey.

Now that the apology has come, and has been accepted, there are those who warn against great expectations in terms of Turkish-Israeli ties. Writing for “GMF Blog,” Sir Michael Leigh, who is a senior advisor to the German Marshall Fund, for example, believes “Israel and Turkey are unlikely to return to the halcyon days of diplomatic and military cooperation.”

It is clear, however, from the official statements issued, that the ultimate aim is in fact to reinvigorate the once strategic ties, especially in view of developments in the region.

Explaining, over his Facebook account, his reason for apologizing, Netanyahu said a major consideration for him “was the fact that in Syria, the crisis is getting worse by the minute.” He added, “It is important that Turkey and Israel, which both border Syria, can communicate with each other.”

Israel’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, also admitted that the threat from Syria was a key reason for the apology. “The more coordination there is between us and the Turks, the easier it will be to deal with a problem that could explode in our face tomorrow morning,” he was quoted saying by AFP.

Meanwhile, the Islamist media in Turkey may be celebrating “Turkey’s victory over Israel,” but the government’s statement issued after Erdogan and Netanyahu’s March 22, 30-minute conversation shows this is not a one-way street. The statement said Erdogan informed Netanyahu that relations between Turkey and Israel are of “vital strategic important for regional peace and stability,” adding his “regrets” that they had gone bad.

Erdogan also expressed Turkey’s desire to contribute to efforts to bring about a lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, clearly indicating in this way that Ankara is looking forward to regaining the role it once had in this process, but lost when it fell out with Israel.

Israel also stands to benefit from revitalized Turkish mediation efforts, of course, as it did in the past when Ankara started an indirect process of dialogue between Syria and Israel, even if that effort came to nothing after Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008 against Gaza. It is also important for Israel to have Turkish influence over Hamas, aimed at preventing attacks against Israeli targets from Gaza.

Meanwhile, it must be noted that Turkey shares Israeli concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons and its ballistic missiles. President Abdullah Gul has said this openly in various interviews. This was also the prime reason for the Erdogan government when it asked NATO to deploy Patriot anti-ballistic missile batteries in Turkey.

It is also noteworthy that Israeli President Shimon Peres told the European Parliament recently that the free world “cannot stand by when a massacre is carried out by the Syrian president against his own people and his own children.” This echoes remarks made frequently by Erdogan.

A joint Turkish-Israel intervention against Syria is out of the question, of course. But it is clear that Turkey will facilitate more cooperation between NATO and Israel now, which will also mean closer technical coordination in monitoring potential threats to both countries from Syria.

Turkey also allowed NATO to deploy advanced US anti-missile radars in Turkey in 2011 to monitor Iran’s ballistic missile activities. The same system is deployed in Israel, which means coordinating the monitoring of Iran is also in the cards, despite Erdogan’s past insistence that intelligence obtained from the radar system in Turkey will not be shared with Israel.

Not surprisingly, Tehran is crying foul after Netanyahu’s apology. The deputy chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, told the Iranian Fars news agency, “The Zionist regime’s apology to Turkey is a new game by the US, the Israeli regime and Turkey to undermine the anti-Israeli resistance movement in the region.”

Tehran is already angry with Turkey for working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the Iranian side considers a vital figure in the “anti-Israeli resistance.” Turkey’s allowing the deployment of NATO radars and Patriot missiles on its territory also elicited angry remarks from Iranian officials.

On the economic side, reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is expected to provide new possibilities for the two countries to cooperate in the energy field. Erdal Saglam, a veteran commentator on economic affairs in daily Hurriyet, for example, believes that an opportunity has now arisen for Ankara to attract gas from Israel’s vast off-shore reserves to Turkey.

Saglam says this is good not just for the two countries but for the West also, since Turkey is becoming a major hub for distributing oil and gas to Europe. Greek Cyprus, which is relying on the vast gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus, and hoping these will help it overcome its current economic meltdown, is clearly worried over these developments. The reason is that it had relied on Israeli cooperation in the energy field after Israel’s ties with Turkey hit rock bottom.

But Israel may be in a position now to convince the Greek Cypriot administration that settling the Cyprus issue equitably, and cooperating with Turkey in the energy field, is the most rational way to go forward for the sake of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

One must not get carried away with these notions, however, before it is certain that the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement will actually work since there are still technical hurdles to overcome between the two countries. What is nevertheless clear is that if this rapprochement works it will have positive consequences for the Middle East.

Semih ?diz is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse. A journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign-policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years, his opinion pieces can be followed in the English language Hurriyet Daily News. He can also be read in Taraf. His articles have been published in The Financial Times, the Times, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine, and he is a frequent contributor to BBC World, VOA, NPR, Deutche Welle, various Israeli media organizations and Al Jazeera.

Posted by Ted Belman @ 10:35 pm | 2 Comments »



2 Responses to Israel should never have apologized

  1. yamit82 says:

    A Primer On the REAL Global Geopolitical Battle
    Posted on October 8, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog
    Are the Wars in the Middle East and North Africa Really About Oil?

    The Iraq war was really about oil, according to Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, a high-level National Security Council officer and others.

    Dick Cheney made Iraqi’s oil fields a national security priority before 9/11.

    It’s a War for GAS

    But it’s about gas as much as oil …

    As key war architect John Bolton said last year:

    The critical oil and natural gas producing region that we fought so many wars to try and protect our economy from the adverse impact of losing that supply or having it available only at very high prices.

  2. yamit82 says:

    It’s all about Gas and Oil and it always was!!!

    Will Israel Win the Energy Prize in the Levant Basin?

    by Jerry Gordon (December 2011)

    Turkish official confirms that Israel offered to lay a gas pipeline to Turkey

    Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (15.02.13) reports that a Turkish Energy Ministry official has told the Hurriyet Daily News that Israel has offered to lay an undersea natural gas pipeline to Turkey’s south coast in order to sell energy to Europe, but the Turkish government is yet to give an answer due to the political tension between two parties.

    “Israel has made a bid to build a pipeline to Turkey within last two weeks,” the official said. “But we have a policy regarding Israel and the claims that Turkey leans towards this idea is not true.”

    Referring to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot, Turkish daily Vatan claimed yesterday that Israeli Prime Ministry Undersecretary Harel Locker and Israeli energy giant the Delek group – who also signed an agreement with “Greek Cyprus”, as the Republic of Cyprus is called, to explore off-shore energy, arousing reactions from Turkey – had conducted two meetings with the Turkish Energy Ministry to present the pipeline offer.

    The newspaper also said that the project would cost $2 billion, most of which will be financed by the Ankara government, which views the project positively.

    However, the Ministry official denied the claims of the newspaper by saying that Turkey’s current policy on Israel relations would hamper any possible agreement with the country.

    On the same day, another Israeli daily newspaper made another claim about the issue, saying that the Turkish conglomerate Zorlu Group planned to lay an undersea pipeline from the Leviathan field, the biggest in Israel.

    The relationship between Turkey and Israel hit a historic low after Israel’s deadly May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla aid ship that killed eight Turkish citizens and one U.S. citizen of Turkish origin.

    The attack was the climax of a two-year-long saga of rising tensions between Turkey and Israel, during which the former’s prime minister walked out of the Davos Economic Forum in protest at the latter’s President. The chill in ties has continued due to Turkish demands for an official apology from Israel for the Mavi Marmara attack and compensation for the raid’s victims.

    Recently, Israel has authorized the passage of Turkish trucks through Gaza carrying materials for the construction of the Turkish-Palestine Friendship Hospital. Lifting the siege on Gaza constitutes Turkey’s third condition to Israel for the normalizing of relations.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    I am coming around to the conclusion that this Turkish apology schtick was in fact BB initiated. Yamit

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