New 'Apology Tour,' Same Old Result: Turkey Reneges on Israel Deal
President Barack Obama was once criticized for his “apology tour” around the globe, in which he bowed to Islamic leaders and admitted America’s faults. Now, he is making other western leaders apologize. In a surprise move before leaving Israel, President Obama encouraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for the death of nine Gaza flotilla activists in 2010.
The media hailed President Obama’s achievement, calling it a “diplomatic win” and a “diplomatic coup.” Netanyahu’s apology “resolved a bitter three-year dispute,” the New York Times reported, “handing the president a solid accomplishment.” According to the terms of the deal, Turkey and Israel were to restore normal diplomatic ties, and Turkey was to drop its sensational prosecutions of Israeli generals over the flotilla incident.
On Friday, the White House released a statement hailing “the restoration of positive relations” between Israel and Turkey as a result of Netanyahu’s apparently forced apology over the flotilla raid. A day later, however, Turkey appeared to renege on the deal, with Erdogan telling the Turkish press that it was too soon to send a new ambassador to Israel or to stop the show-trial prosecutions, despite President Obama's assurances.
Turkey appears to have pocketed Israel’s apology and changed the terms of the deal--or else the deal was never what reporters were led to believe. Instead of a diplomatic “coup,” what President Obama appears to have achieved is the humiliation of an ally for the simple act of having defended itself from terrorism. The principle that the apology has established could have negative security implications for Israel and the U.S. as well.
The deaths occurred in 2010 aboard the Mavi Marmara, which was attempting to run a blockade that Israel has established around Gaza to prevent shipments of weapons and weapons-making material to Hamas and other terror groups. There were several other ships in the flotilla, which Israeli commandos stopped and boarded without incident. But passengers on the Mavi Marmara, who included radical Islamists, attacked the Israelis.
The flotilla was organized by a Turkish organization calling itself the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH. The IHH calls itself a charity but operates as a front for jihadists and has a record of providing logistical support to terrorists as well as accepting money from terrorist financiers. It enjoys the protection and support of Erdogan and his ruling party, who supported the flotilla and its goal of breaking the blockade of Hamas in Gaza.
Similar flotillas and marches have been organized by international anti-Israel activists, including former Obama associates (and domestic terrorists) Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn, who led a “Freedom March” to Gaza in late December 2009. Israel already lets humanitarian aid and some commercial goods into Gaza, but restricts specific materials that can be used to build the kind of deadly rockets fired during President Obama’s visit.
Relations with Turkey are important to Israel. The two once enjoyed close security ties, and both are concerned about the civil war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Yet the Erdogan government has been steering Turkey in an Islamist direction, which includes hostility to Israel. That policy was not appeased by Netanyahu’s apology. Instead, the apology appears to have indicated to Erdogan that he can press for more concessions.
It is possible that Netanyahu may have agreed to apologize in exchange for support by President Obama for a potential pre-emptive strike on Iran. Regardless, it is clear that he would not have apologized without Obama’s involvement. In September 2011, Netanyahu flatly refused to apologize to Turkey for actions taken in self-defense, saying: “We do not need to apologize for working to defend our children, our citizens and our cities."
It is now becoming equally clear that the gesture now described as a “diplomatic coup” by President Obama was anything but. The apology was merely a capitulation that is being celebrated by Hamas as well as Turkey, with Hamas calling it the first step to “ending the political and economic blockade.” What the New York Times called “a win-win for all sides” now looks like a win for radical Islam and terror at Israel and the West’s expense.