Putting anti-Israel incitement on ice may even help Turkey in trying to wean Israel a bit from its warming relations with Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus - countries that view Turkey’s increased power in the region in recent years in a very negative light.
The continuing Syrian riots and their suppression by Assad’s government on the other hand, pose a genuine problem for Turkey. Erdogan does not know whether President Assad will continue to govern and for how long. Another uncertainty is whether Turkey will have to take in more Syrian refugees. With large parts of the Arab world in turmoil, there are many major developments that require Turkey’s constant attention. One example: Who will rule Egypt after the autumn elections and will the new government view Turkish support for Hamas positively or negatively?
In the context of current attempts to end Turkish-Israeli tension, there remains the Turkish demand that Israel apologize for the death of nine people killed by the IDF on the Mavi Marmara at the end of May 2010. If Israel were to apologize, Erdogan would avoid losing face after his frequent demands that Israel should “admit its guilt.”
Israeli appeasers contend that apologies are only words. They claim that it costs Israel nothing to admit that it was at fault. The Turkish government was, however, heavily involved in many aspects of the flotilla incident. This information can be found in investigative research carried out by Steven Merley, who specializes in political extremism.
He exposes Turkish government support for the flotilla that was channeled through the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network. This included the attendance of officials from Turkey’s ruling AKP party at many important Muslim Brotherhood network events in support of the flotilla, as well as a meeting attended by Erdogan himself with a delegation of the Global Muslim Brotherhood and flotilla movement leaders from Britain and France. This meeting took place shortly before the ships left port for Gaza.
Indeed, without government support the Mavi Marmara would probably never have approached Israel’s waters.
Don’t trust Erdogan
An Israeli apology - however limited - has far more negative aspects than it seems at first sight. Apologies by nature bring closure to much of a debate. The two parties involved jointly agree on their interpretation of the past.
More than any other country, Israel and the Jewish people have historical experience with apologies and therefore should have an understanding of their importance. Many nations and various organizations such as The Red Cross, church bodies and others have apologized for their behavior during the Holocaust. After the collapse of communism when Israel requested apologies from the newly independent nations in Eastern Europe there were also critics who stressed that the apologies were not genuine. Others noted that those who apologized were not the ones who had committed the crimes.
Israel’s leadership, however, understood that official apologies play an important role as potential anchors in collective memory. They are preserved in archives and become an important source for historians. These apologies will remain well documented for future generations. Apologizing to Turkey over the flotilla incident thus means distorting official Israeli history forever.
The world has had enough time by now to understand how Erdogan operates. In 2004 for instance, out of the blue, he accused Israel of state terrorism. In 2005, he came on a visit to Israel to mend fences. What probability is there that he will structurally change his future behavior in a positive way? When not pressured at home, he may consider it opportune to attack Israel again.
If things quiet down on the Syrian border and Erdogan feels an internal or external need for inciting against Israel, apologies – if indeed made — will be one more instrument in his arsenal of hate mongering. If Israel apologizes, Erdogan could then say “See, I was right to attack them all the time.” Israel will then find that ultimately nothing has remained from the improved relations other than undeserved apologies, which will be documented for eternity.
Manfred Gerstenfeld is the author of 20 books. He has published a number of research essays on the major aspects of apologies by countries and various organizations for their participation in The Holocaust
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