An Ill-Advised Deal With Erdogan
Israel’s Channel 10 broke a story Thursday night that is the kind of scoop journalists celebrate. Unfortunately, however, this one is very bad news.
According to sources in the Prime Minister’s Office, Israel and Turkey are on the verge of restoring full diplomatic relations. Translated into plain English, this means that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to make a deal with the devil.
The demon in question, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had already hinted on Monday that he was sniffing around his Jewish nemesis when he said that renewed ties between the two countries would have “a lot to offer to us, to Israel, to Palestine and also to the region.”
So it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to learn that a secret meeting was held on Wednesday in Switzerland between Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and newly appointed Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, accompanied by Netanyahu’s long-time special envoy to Turkey, Yossi Ciechanover, for the purpose of reaching an agreement.
Nor is Erdogan’s timing due to a gradual change of heart. Rather, it is because the Ankara Islamist with hegemonic fantasies has become a pariah in the Muslim world he dreamed of ruling, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready, willing and able to pummel him into oblivion.
Erdogan exemplifies the complex and often contradictory alliances in the region. He is anti-Iran while supporting some of Tehran’s terrorist proxies and opposing others. He is against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, but also claims to be anti-Islamic State — though Islamic State is among the rebels in Syria trying to topple Assad.
He turned a previously moderate and democratic Muslim country into an authoritarian Islamic state in which journalists and politicians are jailed for criticizing the government, but still covets membership in the European Union.
He is also virulently anti-Israel, but perpetuates the myth — for the benefit of the administration in Washington — that the Jewish state is responsible for the rift he himself caused five years ago, when he abetted attempts by pro-Hamas activists to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The tipping point occurred in 2010, when Israeli commandos who rappelled onto the Mavi Marmara — one of the “Free Gaza” flotilla ships headed to the Hamas enclave with “humanitarian goods” that looked an awful lot like weapons — were brutally attacked.
When the IDF soldiers fought back, nine Turkish activists were killed (and a 10th died later of his wounds). That was the snip that severed the few remaining fibers of friendship between the two neighboring countries. Ambassadors were recalled on both sides, and the millions of Israeli tourists who had previously flooded Turkey every chance they got began to dwindle down to almost nothing.
Enter US President Barack Obama.
“Make nice,” he admonished Netanyahu, going as far as to shove his cellphone into the Israeli leader’s hand on the tarmac of Ben-Gurion Airport and force him to apologize to Erdogan.
Though Netanyahu complied, Erdogan did not back down on any of his conditions for rapprochement. Naturally. Every Islamist chieftain knows that intransigence is the key to bringing Western nations to their knees. It sure worked for Iran’s main mullah.
Let us not forget that money — oodles of it — also plays a crucial part in such scenarios.
Erdogan’s demands of Netanyahu included multi-millions of dollars in “compensation” for the dead activists. Never mind that they were killed in self-defense. When Obama wants a deal, no ransom is too high.
Of course, Erdogan’s greed didn’t end there. He also insisted that Israel open the Gaza blockade, to enable Hamas terrorists to roam freely in the Jewish state and commit mass murder, as they had been doing before being handed the entire area on a silver platter 10 years ago.
Netanyahu could not agree to that, so the chasm remained vast. Until this week, that is — and just in time for Erdogan to benefit from the gas deal that Netanyahu pushed through, after a long internal battle against its opponents.
Yes, now that Erdogan is on the outs with Putin for downing a Russian fighter jet in its airspace, he is in serious need of finding an alternative energy source. Turkey, you see, heavily depends on Russian gas. And guess what? One of the clauses of the new reconciliation agreement between Erdogan and Netanyahu involves a pipeline from Israel to Turkey.
In addition, Israel will pay some $20 million in “compensation” for the Mavi Marmara incident.
Embassies will also be restored, which means that billions of Israeli tourist shekels will resume flooding Turkey.
The only compromise Erdogan has to make is to consent not to prosecute Israeli brass in absentia for war crimes related to the Mavi Marmara, and to ban Hamas terrorist Salah al-Arouri — mastermind of the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion last year (which sparked the war in Gaza) — from operating out of Turkey.
In other words, as usual, to secure “peace,” Israel has to take all the concrete action, while its Islamist “partner” gets credit for doing zilch.
There is, however, one bone of contention that may blow up the deal that Erdogan ill deserves: the issue of the Gaza blockade. If the Turkish tyrant does not give in on that point, there will be no agreement.
You don’t have to be an expert in global strategy — which pragmatists like to call realpolitik — to understand that getting in bed with an Islamist is tantamount to the tale of the tortoise helping the scorpion across the river. The deadly sting to the former is inevitable, even if the latter commits suicide in the process.
Ruthie Blum is the web editor of The Algemeiner (algemeiner.com). This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.