From the first day on which the Islamic Party gained control of the government of Turkey, Israel has attempted to pacify and reassure Erdogan, despite that leader’s proven antagonism to Jews – in line with his extreme Islamic approach – that was all too evident by the 1980’s. During that period, he wrote a play called “Mas-kum-ya”, an abbreviation of “The Free builders, Communists and Jews” and recently called an anti-Erdogan demonstrator “Jewish seed”, considered a most denigrating and humiliating insult in Turkey.
Israel has tried to be optimistic since his election twelve years ago, in 2002, noting that the army remained basically secular and therefore continued its good relations with Israel.
However, Islamic clouds gradually darkened the relations between the two countries, so that as the trend towards Islamism grew stronger in Turkey, Israel’s value to Ankara lessened appreciably, as did any mutual cooperation. Israel’s official spokesmen tried to minimize the significance of these developments, but the bitter reality struck Israel in the face when Erdogan – under IHH camouflage – organized the Marmara flotilla in order to break the sea embargo that Israel maintains on Gaza.
IHH is internationally known as a terror-sponsoring Islamist organization. That fact alone justified Israel’s takeover of the Mavi Marmara, even if it entailed the use of force. Israel has the right to protect itself from weapons-smuggling to Gaza, and the armed terrorists who holed up on the Marmara disguised as “human rights activists” did not convince anyone that their mission was necessary. Even the UN investigative team – of which Turkey was a member – justified the takeover after the fact.
Except that Erdogan was not convinced, continued to claim that Israel had committed a crime and increased the pressure on her to admit it, accept responsibility for it and its results, remove the blockade of Gaza, and pay compensation to the families of terrorists who were aboard the ship. Israel tried to resolve the issue behind the scenes and reach a modus vivendi between the two nations, assuming that the Marmara episode aside, there is no other problem affecting relations between Israel and Turkey under Erdogan.
Israel’s policy makers seemed to believe that as soon as a compensation agreement could be signed and the sums it demands paid, there would be no more problems and relations with Turkey would go back to what they were before 2002.
But then came this week’s report of Turkey’s complaint to Interpol against high-ranking IDF officers who were in active service at the time of the Marmara takeover. If Interpol accepts the Turkish complaint, these officers will be unable to fly to most points on the globe, because the minute they tread on the ground of a country that is a member of Interpol, they can be arrested and sent to Turkey, imprisoned, questioned, tried and sent to the infamous Turkish jails.
This is intended to bring Israel to its knees and have it beg the Turks to spare the lives of the IDF officers whose every move out of Israel might now be controlled by Turkey.
To my mind, there is no bigger mistake than the way in which Israel dealt with the Marmara affair. From day one, Israel should have said loudly: “The Marmara was a terror ship that wanted to break a legal siege on a terrorist entity, and everyone on the ship is a terrorist. The nation that sent the ship is terror-supporting and its prime minister encourages terror. Israel acted as would any normal nation when attacked by terrorists. Therefore, Israel’s actions were justified. There is no obligation to compensate families of terrorists, no other nation in the world does that.”
At the same time, Israel could have ceased – and still can cease – acting like a wimp and start giving as good as she gets. Israel has to raise world consciousness as to the many terrible events in which Turkey’s present and past governments have been involved: illegal occupation of North Cyprus since 1974; ethnic cleansing of the Greek minority from northern Cyprus; persecution of the Kurds in Turkey and wholesale abrogation of that minority’s human rights; an illegal and illegitimate war against the Kurdish population of northern Iraq; abrogation of rights of Christians in Turkey; legitimization of one-sided turning of churches into mosques; killing of Turkish citizens taking part in protests; aid to Jihadist organizations like al Qaeda who are fighting in Syria – and many more crimes in which the Turkish government is involved up to its neck.
And in case anyone has forgotten, in WWI the Turkish army committed genocide against the Christian Armenians who had lived in the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years.
Several weeks ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu announced that Turkey will not reimburse the Greek refugees that she expelled from northern Cyprus to the south of the island after her illegal occupation of the area, despite the decision of the EU Court of Human Rights that Turkey must grant them reparations. Israel can use that as a precedent and say clearly: “Turkey is not paying reparations to peaceful, decent citizens. And we should pay reparations to families of terrorists?” Israel can also turn to Interpol with a complaint against Erdogan and his forces for the murder of citizens in last year’s demonstrations in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
Israel, however, does nothing to embarrass the Turks, because we behave like softies and try to pacify them, even though every thinking person knows that when one gives in to blackmail, that does not lower the blackmailer’s demands. The opposite is true: the more the blackmailer succeeds in squeezing his victim, the larger his appetite becomes and with it, the level of his blackmail.
Israel’s softie policy encourages Erdogan and his gang to raise the pressure level on Israel, because it doesn’t cost him anything. Israel must begin a public relations campaign whose goal is public exposure of the truth about Erdogan and his cohorts, while at the same time working energetically in UN corridors and Western governments to achieve that goal. When Erdogan begins to feel that the pressure that he is applying to Israel creates an opposing pressure on him, he will begin to take Israel seriously, calm down his fellow-blackmailers and adapt expectations of Israel to match Israel’s willingness to reach an agreement from a position of strength that might cause him damage.
The Biblical spies that Moses sent to scout the Holy Land told the people: “We ourselves felt like little grasshoppers and that’s how they (the Canaanites, ed.) perceived us.” Since then, the rules have stayed the same: he who sees himself as a grasshopper and behaves as if he is spineless, cannot expect others to take him seriously and relate to him as if he were a Samson.
Israel must change its method of dealing with Erdogan’s Turkey drastically, especially now that the extensive damage caused by the kid-gloves method is evident. Israel’s enemies must know that acting against her will entail a high price that up to now they have been excused from paying. Only this can stop their actions against us. Love between Israel and Turkey is not an option, but this kind of love does not exist anyway. The price the Turks will have to pay will serve as a deterrent and the ensuing hesitation before their next move against us will be Israel’s reward for a change in policy from pacification to frontal attack.
Reprinted with permission from Arutz Sheva