If anyone is looking for a proper metaphor to describe the deep rift in Israel’s relations with Turkey in recent days, I would like to suggest the comment I heard Tuesday evening from a senior official who took part in maintaining the strategic ties between the two countries: “We have reached the precipice,” he said, “and neither side should jump.”
On the one hand, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having the blood of Palestinians on his hands. On the other hand, Netanyahu replies that Erdogan is the last person who can preach to Israel, being responsible for the massacre of Kurdish citizens in Turkey and Syria.
On the one hand, Turkey expels our ambassador from Ankara, and on the other hand, Israel responds by sending the Turkish consul in east Jerusalem home.
Here are a few facts we should be aware of before we stop playing by the rules with Ankara, which will explain why we should sometimes grind our teeth and carry on instead of slamming the door shut.
First of all, two years ago Netanyahu agreed—despite the objection of many of his ministers—to pay $21 million to the families of the Turkish citizens killed in the 2010 IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara ship. The agreement led to a reconciliation between the two countries and included a Turkish promise to drop the court cases against the IDF leaders and the soldiers who were involved in the raid.
Second, a major portion of the oil supply to Israel from former Soviet countries arrives in Israel through pipes passing through Turkey.
Third, Turkey complies with the Israeli intelligence community’s requests to prevent Hamas leaders and others from executing terror attacks against Israeli targets around the world.
Fourth, Israel has highly important economic interests in which the Turkish government encourages cooperation.
On the other hand, Erdogan is trying to violate the status quo concerning Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem. He sees himself as an Islamic leader trying to “steal the show” at the Temple Mount from the Palestinians and the Jordanians.
And there’s one more thing which has to be taken into account when dealing with Erdogan: Several years ago, Israel was on the brink of a military conflict with Turkey, and IAF planes were on a course of collision with Turkish military aircraft.
The bottom line is that the crisis with Turkey is part of an overall front launched against Israel in recent days in Europe, Asia and South Africa. In other words, almost the entire world is against us. Netanyahu, in his position as foreign minister, has failed miserably in alleviating the international rage against Israel.