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Turkey and Israel Talk for the First Time in Years

Plus more about the speech everyone keeps talking about

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Turkish PM Erdogan and Israeli PM Netanyahu(VetsToday)

Before President Obama stepped on Air Force One and flew on to Jordan, the biggest score of his trip to the Levant took place: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan spoke by phone for the first time since Bibi took office in 2009. The vital Turkish-Israeli relationship had been frozen by infamous Mavi Marmara incident back in 2010, which put the two countries at odds at the most strategically inconvenient moment possible.

This last achievement may pay the most in terms of immediate dividends; Israel and Turkey are separated only by total chaos and any resuscitation of their once-strong alliance is not just good, it’s necessary.

But before this phone call happened, the big story was (and will probably remain) President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem yesterday. Tal Kra-Oz did a recap for us here. Here’s what others have been saying about the address:

Dashing the most hot sauce on it was Jeffrey Goldberg, who believes that had Obama delivered yesterday’s speech at AIPAC, he would have been roundly booed.

He would not have been booed for his vigorous endorsement of the Zionist idea, of course; nor for his promise to stand by Israel though thick and thin; not for his expressions of admiration for Jews and Judaism; and not for the promise to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge; but for asking his audience to sympathize with ordinary Palestinians, who have lousy lives in good measure because of the occupation. He definitely would have been heckled for that one.

The same could probably be said for Congress and Florida.

Yossi Klein Halevi, who said it “may have been the most passionate Zionist speech ever given by an American president,” appreciated its acceptance of the Israeli narrative regarding peace, which for years has been an unrelenting source of frustration for Israeli advocates, spox, and hasbaraists.

Obama acknowledged—no, he deeply affirmed—the well-earned right of Israelis to be skeptical of appeals to peace. You held out your hand in friendship and made a credible offer for peace and that was rejected, he told us. You withdrew from Gaza and got missiles in return. And when you look around the region, you see instability and wonder how peace can possibly come.

The news wasn’t all good from Yossi, who added this somber note:

There was something deeply unsettling, almost cruel, in trying to reawaken our suppressed hopes for normalcy—for a new Middle East, in the language of the Oslo peace process.

The theme of reinvigorating the peace process was taken at different face values. Barak Ravid offered that Obama had given Israelis a stark reminder of a fact they’ve been ignoring.

Above all, Obama told the truth. He reminded Israelis that despite all their achievements and their desire to move on and tackle other issues, the conflict with the Palestinians was and is a millstone around their necks.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary was (predictably enough) much less sanguine:

Those who would dismiss the president’s speeches as meaningless rhetoric shouldn’t underestimate the power of words, especially from an American president, to set the tone in the region. But those who think Obama’s appeal to Israelis to force their leaders to once again take risks for peace (something that runs contrary to the verdict of the recent Israeli election) may not only be misreading the mood of the Israeli public; they are also ignoring the Palestinians.

Over at Foreign Policy, Hussein Ibish saw good things in the sustained Israeli applause when Obama mentioned peace and urged an empathetic view of the Palestinian plight, but also in Obama’s girding of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad.

From a Palestinian point of view, it was already highly significant that Obama was not just going to Israel but also Ramallah and Bethlehem for significant talks with both President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. This communicated several important messages: that the Palestinians are still an important factor in the equation, and that they have a leadership, including both Abbas and Fayyad, that is to be engaged with seriously. And by specifically and repeatedly citing the Palestinian Authority’s institution-building and security measures led by Fayyad, Obama was sending a clear signal that he wants to continue to deal with the present Palestinian prime minister, who has been under considerable political pressure in recent months.

But most importantly of all: What did you think?

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Turkey’s Prime Minister and his AK Party have been pushing its country down the path of Islamism since they came to power and long before the Mavi Mammara excuse.

The foreshadowing of Turkey’s moves was seen in the ugly blood-libel depicted in the Turkish movie ‘Valley of the Wolves’, where Turkish film-makers splattered images of Jewish doctors harvesting the organs of dead Muslims.

Prime MInister Erdogan upped the ante in 2008 when he dishonored Israeli President Shimon Peres with his vulgar commentary about how Jews ‘know how to kill’ when Israel decided to defend itself from the daily barrage of rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip on Israel’s civilians, through the operation Cast Lead. This from a man who has stood shoulder to shoulder with the terrorist groups HAMAS and Hizballah, and Sudan’s Bashir, who’s wanted on war-crimes charges stemming from the slaughter of over a million Sudanese during its more than decade long civil wars.

Then came the Mavi Mamara incident, where members of the IHH Islamist organization sought to break the legally organized blockade of HAMAS held Gaza. Allied with Erdogan’s AK Party, the IHH members smuggled weapons on board, including axes and pipes, and declared their intent to become Shaheeds, even as Israeli diplomats attempted to get Turkey to either block the voyage or get the flotilla to turn back. As noted in the UN’s Palmer report, the IHH members, who were only on the Mavi Mammara, were bent on violence. When the IDF boarded the vessel, with no more than paintball guns and side arms, were set upon, they defended themselves from this violent mob.

The shameful demand of an apology from Turkey only highlights the duplicity behind its government’s actions. Indeed, Turkey’s penchant for violence was seen by the repeated calls for war by both Turkey’s armed forces, and calling on Syria’s Bashar Assad to take time out from slaughtering his own citizens, to attack Israel. Of course during this time, Jews have faced calls for violence as when an Israeli women’s volleyball team had to flee the court in Turkey amid vulgar calls for violence, and the whim and will of Turkey’s leader was actually put into effect by al-Queda which detonated multiple bombs targeting the few remaining active synagogues in Turkey.

To top off the decade, Prime Minister Erdogan decided to descent further into the muck through direct anti-Semitic commentary, equating Zionism with racism, a canard that even the Israel bashing United Nations had the moral clarity to walk away from. Worse, when publically confronted by its NATO ally and patron the United States, Turkey’s political leadership decided to double-down on his disgusting and vile rhetoric.

The idea that it took an Israeli apology to turn this Jew-hating bigot into a dove is blindness of the most severe sort. The bullying tactics of Erdogan knows no bounds as it was him and his own entourage were caught on tape in a brawl against the UN’s own security guards when they attempted to storm into the General Assembly through the wrong route. And it is through this prism, not one of a trusted ally, that Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership should be treated.

herbcaen says:

Esau hates Jacob. a speech to Israeli students wont change that basic fact, just like a speech will not change the fact that a single atom of sodium combined with a single atom of chlorine to form sodium chloride (salt)

domdavid says:

The fundamental problem is that Obama can’t be trusted. He says what he wants whenever it’s convenient regardless of the truth and what he may previously have said in the past concerning the same issue. Evidently, he not only has his own private set of ‘facts,’ but suffers repeatedly from bouts of amnesia. Moreover, he never accepts responsibility for anything he recommends or does that doesn’t turn out the way he hoped or predicted (e.g., Libya, Egypt, withdrawal from Iraq without an extended forces agreement, the affordable health care act, etc..) To illustrate, in 2008 he came to AIPAC and said Jerusalem should remain united forever; and a day later changed his mind. Not so long ago, “settlements” were a barrier to ‘Peace;” now, evidently, there’re not.

In view of this record, it’s hard to believe that any sentient person would take him at his word. As to his role in’encouraging’ Bibi to apologize to Erdogan, it is but another example of POTUS engaging in an empty gesture while he leads from behind. As long as Erodgan rules Turkey, he will stick it to Israel. Erdogan is a fundamentalist Muslim who makes no bones about his dislike, even loathing for Jews. For God’s sake, the guy wants to come to Gaza to show his solidarity with Hamas. Apologizing to Erdogan makes about as much sense as it would have been for leaders of the German Jewish community to apologize to the Himmler for the role some Communist Jews allegedly played in the Reichstag Fire.

Beatrix17 says:

Israel’s neighbors aren’t Canada and Mexico. Her neighbors in the Mideast hate Israel with the fervency of the Nazis, only this time Israel is armed and wins her wars. Egypt was more enemy than friend, but the two didn’t have a war for over 30 years. Erdogan is losing his status and so he’s grabbing on to Israel in order to win back the USA. Israel is wise to take what they can get as long as they don’t fool themselves.

Obama is bright. He’s able to change his mind, which is good. I don’t see leadership or character in Obama, but he’s the prez until 2016, and when he does something right I’ll support it. We may do worse in 2016. Every Carter is not followed by a Reagan.


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Turkey and Israel Talk for the First Time in Years

Plus more about the speech everyone keeps talking about

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