Turkey, Israel's best friend in Middle East? That reminds me of the story…
By Alex Liff
SAN DIEGO–Watching the aftermath of the so called Gaza flotilla unfold can’t help but remind one of the following old joke that goes something like this. A gentleman comes out of a building and sees a crowd gathered below, gesturing angrily toward a roof where one can observe a young man dragging an old lady toward the edge of the roof, in an attempt to throw her down. The crowd, visibly upset, yells insults at the young man, telling him to let the old woman alone. Suddenly another person emerges from the building and announces that the old lady is the young man’s mother in law at which point the crowd exclaims, “ah the witch, the nerve of her to resist”. Substitute Israel for the old woman and the world for the crowd and the whole absurdity of the affair comes clearly into focus.
In fact the whole affair can be characterized by the following analogy. The door bell rings, you open it and in barges one of the neighbors, the one you used to play poker with but lately he has been acting kind of weird. He punches you in the face, gives you a bloody nose and then declares that he won’t play poker with you anymore, until of course you apologize for not leaving the door open and then getting some blood on his shirt with your darn, squirting nose. The neighborhood is up in arms at your brutality and your neighbors from Norway and Sweden in fact drop you from the neighborhood poker night all together. Which brings us to Israel’s so called old friend, Turkey. “Israel cannot find any better friend in the region than Turkey. And Israel is about to lose that friend,” declared Turkey ‘s ambassador to U.S, Namik Tan. He then went on to kindly outline the steps that Israel could take to keep its “good” friend, Turkey, from severing those dear ties. And so with a straight face, can we have some drum roll please.
First, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to publically apologize to Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan specifically and to the Turkish nation in general for the dastardly assault at sea that killed the nine peace loving Turks who were last seen in a video called “bash an Israeli soldier’s head in with a peace loving metal pipe”. The esteemed ambassador unfortunately did not specify if PM Netanyahu would have to be standing on one, or two knees while giving that apology leaving those wicked Israelis to guess about the proper protocol that would satisfy the aggrieved, peace loving Turks.
Second, Israel would have to consent to, practically beg the U.N to organize a so called international investigation into the Flotilla affair. Here again the details remained a bit murky as the honorable ambassador did not specify if it would be Iran or Saudi Arabia or perhaps some other equally deserving and unbiased world actor chairing such an impartial commission. Perhaps it would be Hamas itself, given all of its significant human rights credentials and even handedness (as in they are equally adapt at throwing people off of buildings with left as well as right hand) that would get the honorary chairmanship of such a commission.
Third, the distinguished ambassador Mr. Tan outlined a demand for Israel to essentially lift the blockade of Gaza. As in the first two demands, the details remained a bit incomplete, and thus it was unclear if the Iranian missiles would need to be delivered directly to Hamas via Haifa or Ashdod ports. It was also a bit unclear if the Israelis needed to reserve aisle or window seats for the Iranian revolutionary guard instructors who would of course be needed to teach the peace loving Hamasniks how to use such sophisticated equipment. Of course there has been quite a bit of press lately about the bestial Israeli blockade and how it was denying the long suffering, peace loving, oppressed people of Gaza, such basic human necessities as coriander, ginger and yes, the French croissants. It’s clear that no spontaneous suicide bombing celebration is complete without a bit of ginger and coriander. In fact it is said that the attendees to the famous suicide bombing museum in Gaza, you know the one the graphically depicts the Pizza place bombing in Tel Aviv that peacefully killed and maimed dozens of Israelis, listed French croissants as one of the key missing items off of the cafeteria menu. Ah, such travesty indeed.
So what is one to make of Mr.Tan’s statement? Well, today, saying that Israel can not find a better friend than Turkey in the region is kind of like saying that in a prison full of criminals, the one who merely killed a few people is morally superior to the rest who are mass murderers. It is true that Turkey was a friend, in the pre-Erdogan days. It was a relationship based on mutual benefit and befitting of a Nato member with aspirations to join the European union. The Turks benefitted by getting Israeli military technology and economic know how while also enjoying massive Israeli tourism and the hard currency that it brought. That all changed in the last 5 years or so, as Mr. Erdogan steered a steady course away from western orientation and toward Islamism of Iran. Turkey has cuddled up to Iran and has done everything possible to shield Iran from international sanctions. It has been quite clear for all but most naïve observers for quite some time that Turkey is a friend no more, not for Israelis and not for the Americans. And just like in real life when one’s friend decides to leave you, the best reaction is to bid them a fond farewell, and ask that the door not hit them on the way out. Groveling and begging is very unbecoming in life and politics alike.
What does it all mean for Israel, U.S and Nato? It’s time to face the facts, Turks are friends no longer and appropriate conclusions need to be drawn. U.S would be well served to do the right thing and finally declare that Turkish genocide against the Armenians did take place. Military contacts should be cut appropriately and economic cooperation curtailed. And as for Israel? How should Bibi respond to Mr. Tan’s tantalizing request? Well, in 1980 at the height of the cold war, at the Olympic games, one American reporter would run into his Russian counterpart who would use his fingers to proudly show how many medals the Russians won that day. Naturally the American was a bit frustrated. That all changed the day the U.S Hockey team won the gold medal. The next morning the American bumped into the Russian, and proudly held up just one finger, and you can probably guess which one it was. The humble suggestion to Bibi is to use that one finger to respond to Mr. Tan’s proposition. I hope it means the same in Turkish, if not, perhaps the U.N commission can help to translate.
Liff is a freelance journalist based in San Diego
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