Four Years of Futility

Unbeknownst to most of the world, the 4th anniversary of the Gaza flotilla raid has come and gone. Even within Turkish society the affair has become a sideshow – May 31 is about Gezi Park, not what happened to some boat hundreds of miles away. And while events were held in Istanbul and Gaza to memorialize the nine (now ten) passengers who died aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, the international media barely gave it coverage.

This, of course, is a very good thing.*

The time has come to make amends.

Israel and Turkey stand at the brink of a historic reconciliation deal, with the hope of enriching their economic partnership through natural gas (though I wonder if the recent death of a ten passenger has added a few extra millions to the final sum). Relations won’t improve overnight, the ruling AKP and Likud-Beytenu parties have little patience for one another, but changes in the regional landscape – particularly in Syria – demand cooperation.

I still believe, despite reports that the deal is imminent, that there is a strong chance it will be postponed until after Turkey’s presidential elections August 10. Netanyahu does not trust Erdogan, and may wait until Turkey’s PM no longer has something to gain from playing the “Israel card” and lambasting the Jewish State.

Yet such a defensive maneuver could easily backfire. As Erdogan said during an April 27 interview with Charlie Rose, “black cats” could spoil the process. He isn’t wrong. Several potential black cats have appeared already:

  • The Turkish court’s decision to secure an international arrest warrant for the four IDF officers responsible for the raid on the Mavi Marmara. Erdogan hardly helped the situation when he said the government had no power to intervene.
  • Former Turkish ambassador to Israel Oğuz Çellikol suggested in his recent book, From One Minute to the Mavi Marmara, that Egyptian intelligence may have had a role in the Mavi Marmara affair. Is this a way of absolving Israel, or absolving the passengers who greeting the IDF commandos with knives and metal rods?
  • The repeated use of Israel and Jews after the Soma mining tragedy. Even if Erdogan did not make a “Israeli spawn” reference, the government made little effort to criticize or penalize those newspapers whose headlines blared a blatant anti-Semitic agenda.

There are two ways of looking at this. Either the two sides are committed to rapprochement despite the bumps in road, or the “black cats” of the last few weeks did not carry enough political significance to reopen wounds. (I would add here that there is a heavy dosage of American pressure on both sides not to overreact to anything reported by the media.)

The longer Israel and Turkey wait, the greater the chance that events – intentional or accidental – alter the conditions for reconciliation.

And given the failed peace talks and election season once again heating up in Turkey, the odds for feline interference have only increased.

 

* It may be good thing that the Gaza flotilla no longer receives such high media coverage, but the reality is that it may have been headline news if it wasn’t for the Turkish police’s brutal crackdown in Istanbul and Ankara. The mere fact that anti-government protest is deemed illegal and anti-Israel protest is deemed legitimate is a disconcerting image and one that should not be ignored. However, this brief blogpost is just trying to make some bilateral observations.

 

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey