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Monday, March 25, 2013

The apology wasn't much of an apology

The apology that Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend wasn't much of an apology.
Nasrallah boasted victory over Israel in the Second Lebanon War, but still does not venture out of his bunker. Nor, for that matter, has his organization fired on Israeli cities in the North for the past seven years.
Haniyeh claimed victory in November’s Operation Pillar of Defense, but the Gaza border, following Hamas’s “stunning victory,” has for years not been as quiet as it is now.
And Erdogan and Davutoglu’s words, claiming that Israel came almost on a bended knee with an apology, fall into the same category. A look at what was actually said in the apology – and what Erdogan initially demanded – paints a significantly different picture.


A careful look at Friday’s statement agreed upon by Turkey and Israel of the Netanyahu-Erdogan conversation that put the relationship on the road to repair, however, shows it is far from the fulfillment of Erdogan’s “requirements.”
First of all the apology.
Erdogan, according to Israeli diplomatic officials familiar with the months-long negotiations over the formula, said Erdogan wanted a public apology to him for the raid on the ship and the killing of nine Turks.
What he got was a bit different.
Netanyahu regretted the loss of life, and issued an apology to the Turkish people, not to Erdogan, for operational mistakes – if they happened – that led to the loss of life. That is not exactly a full-throated, public apology. Furthermore, Netanyahu did not apologize for commandeering the ship, something the Turks wanted.


On the issue of compensation, Israel always said it would pay compensation and that was never a major sticking point. [I think the issue was whether Israel would pay directly to the families or to the Turkish government. It's not clear to me how that has shaken out. CiJ].
And, finally, there is the issue of lifting the blockade of Gaza.
Erdogan has ridden the wave of appearing as the champion of Gaza to a position of leadership in the Sunni world, something he covets. The more he bashes Israel, the higher his stature rises; the more he champions Gaza, the more he is cheered in the Arab world.
But Israel did not accede to his demand to lift the blockade of Gaza, something it could never do because that would essentially turn over to a third country the determination of what it needs for its own security.
What did it do? The statement issued by the PMO and carefully crafted by both sides read: “Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and that this would continue as long as calm prevailed. The two leaders agreed to continue to work to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.”
That in no way can be interpreted as “lifting the siege of Gaza.” But never mind, Erdogan declares his demands were met, and Haniyeh hails him as a hero.
Barry Rubin agrees.
Now, a compromise has been reached, apparently with some help from President Barack Obama. The agreement, which includes restoring normal bilateral relations, has been portrayed as some sort of Israeli surrender.
That is simply not true. The agreement is much closer to Israel’s position. There is no change on Israel’s strategic policy toward the Gaza Strip at all. While the word “apology” appears in Netanyahu’s statement, it is notably directed at the Turkish people, not the government and is of the sorry-if-your feelings-were-hurt variety.
Moreover, Israel denied that it killed the Turkish citizens intentionally, a situation quite different from what Erdogan wanted, and offered to pay only humanitarian assistance to families.
Should Israel have expressed regret when it should instead receive an apology from the Turkish government for helping to send terrorists to create a confrontation? On purely moral grounds, no. Yet as I pointed out Israel did not abandon its long-standing position on the issue. It does not want an antagonism with the Turkish people nor one that will continue long after Erdogan and his regime are long out of office. Perhaps this was undertaken to make Obama happy and in exchange for U.S. benefits. But what has happened is far more complex than onlookers seem to be realizing.
Perhaps these seeming word games and niceties are beyond the interest or comprehension of many people, but everyone involved directly on this issue knows exactly what is happening. Erdogan knows very well that this was not a Turkish victory—except in public relations– though Israel won’t object to letting it be claimed as such.
So why is Israel silently allowing Turkey to play this as a Turkish victory? Because Israel is acting like the grown-up in this relationship. And Turkey....

But then, that's been true all along, hasn't it?

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