Appease Turkey – Yoshi Yehoshua
Seemingly, in the wake of the Palmer Report’s publication, there is no reason for Israel to express regret or apologize. However, at this time Israel does not have the privilege of quarrelling with Turkey and of being right.
Israel needs to be the responsible adult and worry about its security, not about its ego or its honor.
Israel has always adopted a restrained approach. Only two weeks ago we witnessed this kind of model behaviour in Gaza, when we refrained from embarking on a major operation that would have worsened our ties with Egypt. This approach proved itself and paid off for us.
Yet in the Turkish theatre – which is no less important – our leaders adopted the opposite approach.
Many songs have been written about men apologizing to women. Apology does not undermine one’s honor, but rather, the opposite is true – it is a strategy adopted by a party that cannot afford to bear the results of refusing to apologize.
The arguments in favour of an apology are more numerous than the reasons to avoid it, even though the Palmer Report does not appear to demand an unequivocal apology, but rather, merely an expression of regret and compensation.
Turkey warned in the past that should Israel fail to apologize, Ankara would adopt “plan B” – downgrading our relations, annulling military agreements and so on. Over the weekend we saw this unprecedented threat materializing.
On September 20th, at the United Nations building, Israel, the United States and Micronesia will be voting against the establishment of a Palestinian state. Some 190 states are expected to vote in favour. The IDF and the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee prepared several scenarios for the day after the vote. Prophecy was given to fools, but with your permission I shall predict that we do not have the privilege of worsening our ties with Turkey.
Should Turkey realize its threat and provide the Palestinians with assistance towards the UN vote; should Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan visit Gaza; should security tensions between the two states grow; and should Erdogan ultimately cooperate with the Iranians and Syrians, our regional situation will be worsened, to say the least.
And we have not yet mentioned the issue of protecting IDF soldiers, who may pay the price for lawsuits at international courts.
All of this can be avoided should Israel be wise enough to forego its national pride in favor of its national interest. Israel cannot afford to be more isolated, as then it would not matter whether our national honor was defended or not.
Don’t appease Turkey – Moshe Ronen
Honor is an important matter. National honor is most certainly an important matter. Many wars broke out for the sake of national honor. Without honor, what is left of national pride? How can we maintain a united human society without the values of honor?
Justice is an important matter as well. In the name of justice, we put people in prison for dozens of years. This is a basic value for every society. Now of all times, after the United Nations – an institute that is usually not an Israel fan – ruled that we were right to impose the Gaza blockade, we are being asked to forego our honor and justice and to apologize?
The Turkish demand for an apology stems from several reasons. Firstly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of a party once known as Islamic, truly feels, deep in his heart, that he wants to bring the Jews down to their knees. Secondly, he needs this in order to portray himself to his voters as a “tough guy.” And thirdly, for several years now, Turkey has been trying to assume the position of regional leader in the Middle East.
Turkey is a powerful Muslim state, an economic powerhouse, and a country with a large military. In order to cement its prominent status, it needs to show Arab states in the region that it managed to force the Israelis to apologize.
Those who support an apology would say this is only about words. A few sentences will be uttered, and everything will be over. Yet there is no such thing when it comes to international relations. After you apologize once, you shall immediately be asked to apologize again. We already saw such demand for apology following the terror incident on the Egypt border.
An apology means that we did not act properly; it is a sort of obligation not to repeat this conduct. Can we limit ourselves that way?
And here is another reason why we must not apologize: We may have been able to do it right after the flotilla incident, just like we apologized right after the incident on the Egypt border. Yet after insisting and clinging to our position for long months, there is no turning back.
And speaking of national honor, the Turks have been insisting that there is no room for apologizing over the Armenian genocide for some 100 years now. The Turks are also unwilling to even hear about the Kurdish people’s right for self-determination. For them, there is apparently great value to the spoken word in general, and to apologies in particular. If they show such stubbornness, we too are allowed to do so.