Just when Israelis hoped and believed relations with Turkey may be thawing, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirms that his government still expects the Jewish state to submit to an international chastisement over its more recent anti-terror operations.
Many Israelis were surprised to hear that Turkey was one of the first nations to send firefighting aircraft when the huge Carmel forest fire erupted last Thursday. Traditionally, Turkey and Israel have been close regional allies, but with the election of Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning government in 2003, things began to drastically change.
Following the 2008-2009 Gaza war, Erdogan led the international charge against Israel and accused its leaders of perpetrating war crimes against the Hamas-ruled territory. He angrily stormed off a stage with Israeli President Shimon Peres when the latter began to explain the necessity of halting terrorist rocket fire from Gaza.
The tensions remained, and then nearly boiled over in May of this year when Israel intercepted a Turkish-sponsored “humanitarian aid” flotilla trying to break the maritime blockade of Gaza. While most of the ships in the flotilla surrendered peacefully to the Israeli commandoes, Turkish activists aboard the largest ship violently attacked the Israelis and even abducted a number of soldiers. With their lives clearly in danger, the commandoes opened fire and killed nine Turkish activists.
Once again, Erdogan led the international charge against Israel, accusing it of piracy, war crimes and insisting that Israel submit to a Turkish-led inquiry that he had already decided would end with Israel begging forgiveness and paying reparations.
Since then, Erdogan’s government has largely halted all cooperation with Israel, and has instead been cozying up to Iran and Syria.
Speaking in central Turkey on Sunday, Erdogan clarified that his hostile position has not changed. “A day will come when we will turn the page [on diplomatic relations], but first Israel must apologize for the incidents of the Gaza flotilla and compensate [the families] of those killed,” he insisted.
Many in Israel have in turn argued that it is Erdogan that owes Israel an apology for allowing the violent and provocative “Free Gaza” flotilla to set sail from his country. It was later discovered that many of the activists aboard the flotilla were members of a terrorist-aligned Turkish organization with ties to Al Qaeda.