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Alon Liel Photo: Yaakov Saar, GPO
Alon Liel Photo: Yaakov Saar, GPO
 
 

Lieberman-style diplomacy

Turkish envoy’s humiliation makes our Foreign Ministry look ridiculous

Alon Liel
Published: 01.13.10, 00:46 / Israel Opinion

The humiliating meeting held by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon with Turkey’s ambassador to Israel attests to a new kind of diplomacy invented by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The content of the conversation was barely mentioned, but rather, only its style was: Seating the ambassador on a low seat, refraining from shaking his hand, pummeling him, and later stressing this was about pulverizing him – these are all new rules of diplomacy.

 

The incident made the Foreign Ministry look ridiculous internationally, and not only in the context of our ties with Turkey.

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Diplomacy comprises clear codes and steps used to convey messages, including ones showing dissatisfaction over our ties with a certain state or its representatives. However, the height of the chair used in the meeting is not included in this codex.

 

Even if this is the declared Israel tactic at this time, its efficiency is unclear. If next week we will see another anti-Israel TV show produced in Turkey, what will we do to the ambassador then? Ask him to crawl into the room? Beat him up? What we have seen here is causing damage to our Foreign Ministry and turning international diplomatic rules into a laughing stock.

 

The Israeli government has been facing a new state of affairs vis-à-vis Turkey for a year now, since Operation Cast Lead and the suspension of the peace process. Those dealing with this issue in the government know of the new and declare Turkish policy, whereby good ties will not be maintained between the states as long as the peace process is not renewed.

 

Israel should address this policy head on and decide where it wishes to turn. If we don’t like it, we can recall our ambassador to Turkey, cool off the relationship between the two states, and even close our embassy in Ankara. However, we decided not to do it. We decided that our ties our important despite what happened, and Israel must conduct itself accordingly while using the familiar tools. We cannot invent a new style of diplomacy where we abuse the Turkish ambassador and show him “who’s the boss.”

 

We must change our attitude 

The move’s implications are marginal in terms of the ties between the states. As noted above, it merely made the Foreign Ministry look ridiculous. I don’t believe that carpenters in Ankara will now be called in to prepare a low chair ahead of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit. Moreover, there is no connection between this visit and the quality of ties should the peace process not be discussed. As a senior minister in the Israeli government, he should do just that. If this is not on the agenda and someone still believes that such visit would fundamentally change the relationship, then he is wrong.

 

What the Turks are doing to us on an almost monthly basis is much worse than any response they can offer to the latest incident. When a Turkish television show displays an Israeli ambassador being shot in the head after he supposedly abducted a girl in order to convert her to Judaism in Israel, the implications are absolutely terrible. The same is true for Erdogan’s statements, which are grave and ongoing.

 

However, our government must realize that as long as he serves as prime minister there, and as long as this is his declared policy, we will have to change our attitude towards his people. The Turks only wish to hear about the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians and with the Syrians, and we must accept this until it blows over.

 

Dr. Alon Liel is the former Foreign Ministry director general

 

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