Israel's Alliance With Turkey on the Rocks Again

Obama-Brokered Deal Over Gaza Flotilla Fails to Yield Results

getty images

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 23, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For a brief moment on March 22, relations between Turkey and Israel seemed to be getting on the right track.

From a cabin near the tarmac in Ben Gurion Airport as he was preparing to return home after a successful trip to Israel, President Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side. In an apparent twinkling, Obama convinced Erdogan that it was time to normalize relations with Israel and then handed the phone to Netanyahu, who sealed the deal.

But nearly five months later, optimism over the prospects of an American-brokered rapprochement has all but vanished. The normalization process has turned out to be slow and painful as both parties continue to haggle over its terms.

Furthermore, after several months of calm relations, Erdogan returned to anti-Israel rhetoric, accusing Jerusalem on August 20 of orchestrating the military coup in Egypt which brought down the Muslim Brotherhood government. The Turkish leader said he was basing his comment on the words of an unnamed Jewish French intellectual who had said before the election in Egypt that even if the Brotherhood wins, it will not be allowed to rule the country. The United States condemned Erdogan’s remarks, calling them “offensive, unsubstantiated and wrong.”

The deal the three leaders sealed in March aimed to resolve bitter conflicts over Israel’s 2010 commando attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara as it sought to break Israel’s siege of Gaza with a shipment of humanitarian goods. Nine Turks, including one Turkish American, were shot dead in the raid. Ten Israeli soldiers were wounded, one seriously.

During the phone call, Netanyahu and Erdogan agreed that Israel would compensate the families of victims of the episode and apologize for the incident’s outcome. In return, lawsuits filed by Turkish citizens against Israel would be dropped. The apology delivered by Netanyahu stressed Israel’s regret over the loss of life and for “any mistake that could have led to loss of life,” but did not include any Israeli admission that raiding the ship was illegal or wrong, as initially claimed by the Turkish government.

But the follow-up talks have foundered, and according to American analysts, the United States largely views the stalled negotiations as stemming from Turkey’s reluctance to finalize the process. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has been cautious about wading once again into this dispute.

“Turkey is a bit like Israel,” said Ross Wilson, who served as America’s ambassador to Ankara from 2005 to 2008. “The Turks don’t like to be told what to do, and therefore it is not easy to use sticks or carrots to shape Turkish policy.” Wilson, who now directs the Eurasia center at the Atlantic Council, said the best prescription for moving the process forward is patience. “In the long run, the regional factors will push the parties closer,” he said.

But in the short run, the lack of normal ties between Jerusalem and Ankara is a source of concern for all sides that share an eagerness to put the Mavi Marmara incident behind them and deal with bigger issues that have since plagued the region, mainly the Syrian civil war.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.