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June 30, 2016 2:05 pm

Utterly Unconscionable

avatar by Martin Sherman

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“Israelis have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (7/19/2014) 

“National honor is not just something people talk of on the street…It has strategic significance.” — Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, (8/17/2011).

The recently announced reconciliation accord — or rather “deal” between Israel and Turkey — is utterly unconscionable and incomprehensible. From an Israeli point of view, it is devoid of any logic on every imaginable level — national, ethical, security and even commercial — except perhaps in the immediate short-term.

Resounding rejection

For this “deal’ to produce any beneficial results for Israel, beyond those that would accrue to it anyway without it, would be extremely implausible, defying all probability, evidence and common sense – a stunning victory for unfounded optimism over sober assessment of prevailing realities.

Just how detrimental the “deal” would be for Israel is underscored by its overwhelming rejection by the Israeli public, reflected in opinion polls conducted just after news of its impending conclusion broke. According to Channel 10, a majority of almost 2 to 1 in the overall population opposed the “deal.” In the Jewish population, the ratio of opponents to proponents rose to almost 3 to 1. By contrast, in the Arab sector, the numbers supporting the “deal” was nearly five times higher than those opposing it!

This is an interesting statistic in assessing the merits (or lack thereof) of the “deal”. After all, unless one ascribes to the (largely non-Zionist) Arab population a more astute grasp of the national interest of the Jewish nation-state than one ascribes to the (largely pro-Zionist) Jewish population, the significance of this finding is crystal clear—for anyone with the moral courage and intellectual integrity to acknowledge it.

The Zoabi index

But perhaps the most reliable measure of the detriments of the “deal” was the undisguised display of joy and satisfaction with which it was received by Arab Knesset member of the anti-Zionist Balad faction, Hanin Zoabi, a de jure Israeli citizen, with full civil rights, who has spent years denigrating her country and consorting with its enemies. Much of Zoabi’s approving glee was due to what is perhaps the most infuriating and disturbing aspect of this ill-conceived deal: Israel’s agreement to pay compensation of $20 million to the families of the homicidal thugs (whom Zoabi accompanied), killed while attempting to disembowel IDF naval commandoes, after they rappelled onto a Turkish vessel in 2010, to prevent it breaching the legal quarantine of the Hamas-ruled terrorist enclave of Gaza.

Flushed with victory at the macabre precedent of compensation being paid for the consequences of the attempted lynch of IDF combatants, she crowed: “The agreement by Israel to transfer the compensation to Turkey constitutes an admission of guilt to the murder of nine human beings…This shows that they were not terrorists but victims of [unprovoked] violence.”

Regrettably, but inevitably, many will believe her.

All Israel’s denials and explanations that this ill-considered “gesture” does not constitute acknowledgement of wrongdoing on its part will be of no avail. Few will be convinced that, if truly blameless, Israel would consent to pay multi-million dollar compensation, merely to allow its Turkish detractors to establish relations with it, relations which Turkey desires no less (and probably more) than Israel does.

Perilous permit

Not less alarming and ominous is the fact that according to the terms of the “deal” Israel will allow Turkey to build infrastructure projects in Gaza, such as a hospital, power station and desalination plant; and to transfer unlimited (!!) humanitarian aid and equipment to Gaza, as long as it goes through the Israeli port of Ashdod.

It is difficult to conceive of a permit more perilous than this. After all, it is clear that with the initiation of these “projects”, huge (indeed, “unlimited”) amounts of dual purpose materials – such as cement, metals and chemicals — will flow into Gaza. Inspections in Ashdod will be of little value — since after any materials enter Gaza, Israel will have little control over what their final destination, or who their end-users, will be.

Furthermore, if the construction of Turkish projects involves the presence of Turkish workers and/or experts in Gaza, another — no less worrying — scenario is likely to arise: If Israel is (again) compelled to use force against the terrorist organizations deployed throughout the area, there is a tangible risk of Turkish civilians — perhaps even Turkish security personnel — being hit, especially if these organizations operate from within (or from underneath) the projects’ perimeters. Clearly, it is not difficult to identify the potential for a dangerous deterioration in the relationship between the two countries.  Indeed, even the specter of possible armed clashes (something Erdogan himself has threatened) cannot be discounted.

At minimum, the presence of Turkish citizens and assets in Gaza is liable to constitute a serious constraint, inhibiting Israel’s freedom of action — both political and military — against the terrorist forces that operate in, and out of, Gaza.

Gas as an excuse?

The question of finding export markets has been cited as a major driving force for the “deal” with Turkey, which is robustly seeking to reduce its dependency on Russia, the source of   over half its gas requirements.

However, on closer consideration, the matter of gas seems more an excuse than a substantive reason justifying the “deal.”  Indeed, it is hard to identify the prudence in a policy, which creates massive dependency on a single customer (that costly construction of conveyance infrastructure would entails), thus mortgaging much of the future of the gas export trade to the vagaries of an inherently inimical, petulant and unpredictable leader.  Indeed, with Erdogan at the helm, every crisis or dispute over a range of topics, on which Israel and Turkey may disagree, is liable to bring about a threat to discontinue Turkish purchases.

Energy expert Professor Brenda Shaffer cautions against falling prey to the notion that supplying gas can act as an impetus for improved bilateral relations. She writes (The Marker, (12/ 28/2015): “To date there is not a single case where the lure of supplying gas or oil contributed significantly to resolving conflict…Energy trade does not cause peaceful relations; it reflects peaceful relations.”

She warns: “The trade of gas rarely, if ever, creates dependency [of the importer]…Indeed the trade can in fact produce dependency of the exporter [on the importer].”

Israel would do well to heed this warning.

The impact on others

The crisis in Turco-Israeli relations led to a blossoming of ties with several other countries, all of whom have some degree of tension in their relationships with Ankara, such as Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

It is highly unlikely that any “deal” that benefits Erdogan will not have some negative impact on the budding bonds with these countries, and the amount of trust they feel can they place in Israel as an ally. Moreover, there can be little doubt that, as Erdogan is a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, any bolstering of his standing in Gaza will cause rancor and resentment in Cairo, where the amenable Sisi government is under constant threat from the Turkish ruler’s Islamist protégés.

I differ with newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on a range of topics, but I find it difficult to disagree with his critical assessment of the impending entente, expressed several months ago, prior to his joining the coalition: “Erdogan leads a radical Islamic regime, the Turks… are at odds with Russia…We have made considerable efforts in recent years to establish ties with Greece and Cyprus and have reached important agreements with them… [The agreement with Turkey] will harm them…It will also harm our ties with Egypt…”

Impact (cont’d)  

Indeed, in an analysis of the Turco-Israeli “deal,” entitled “After the Israel-Turkey Agreement, Turkey and Hamas Will Still Collaborate,” Yoni Ben Menachem, former Director General of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, now a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote: “Although so far Egypt is keeping mum, in the past it expressed great displeasure at the possibility of Israel giving Turkey any sort of foothold in Gaza.”

There is little reason to believe that Egyptian displeasure with the current deal will be in any way diminished.

Moreover, on Monday (6/28), the Israeli business daily, Globes, warned: “Russia, from which Turkey imports 55%-60% of its natural gas, will do everything in its power to prevent this project [Israeli supplying gas to Turkey] from getting off the ground.”

The paper also noted: “The proposed pipeline between Israel and Turkey would pass through Cypriot economic waters–requiring the country’s approval. But relations between Cyprus and Turkey have been frosty [for decades]…A Cypriot energy executive was furious at the deal between Israel and Turkey [saying] ‘a gas export deal between Israel and Turkey is a point of no return for Israeli-Cypriot ties.’” According to the deputy ambassador of Cyprus to Israel, “his country would not authorize the construction of a pipeline…”

Quoting a former senior Israeli diplomat, Globes reported that: “The deal with Turkey will hurt relations with Greece and likely Cyprus.” Referring to an agreement, signed in January between Cyprus, Israel and Greece, calling for strengthening trilateral ties, he remarked: “Israel gave Cyprus and Greece the illusion that it was on board; signing a deal with Turkey is a sort of betrayal.”

Superfluous surrender

Even commercially, there seems little point in the “deal.” While political ties between governments may have soured, relations between the two business communities have strengthened considerably.

Thus, despite the breakdown of diplomatic ties, business between the two countries has increased almost five-fold since the pre-Erdogan 1990s, and roughly doubled since 2009 (the year before the Gaza flotilla incident) — reaching almost $5.5 billion in 2014.

But beyond this, if Erdogan has truly undertaken a fundamental reassessment of Turkish interests, and rapprochement with Israel is now perceived as an important national goal, would he really be prepared to sacrifice it for a paltry $20 million dollars compensation or the dubious privilege of providing humanitarian aid to Gaza? There are only two possibilities:

Either he would; or he wouldn’t.
If he would, this demonstrates how little store he places in renewed ties with Israel, and should be expected to disrupt them for a myriad of less-than-weighty pretexts in the future. Hence Israel should eschew any concessions to attain such ties.

If he wouldn’t, there is no need for Israel to make any concessions for renewed ties with Turkey, since Ankara would be compelled to establish them anyway — whether the $20 million dollars or the provision of aid to Gaza was forthcoming,  or not.

Simple logic, isn’t it?

Real reason for rupture

The loss of Turkey as a strategic ally is a huge blow.

But we should not lose sight of the fact that the real reason for the rupture of relations was not because of what Israel has – or has not – done. It is a result of what Turkey has become. Indeed, it would be foolish to believe otherwise, for virtually the only thing unchanged in Turkey since the ascent of Erdogan’s party to power is its geographic location.

Today, Turkey is a very different country from what it was in the 1990s, the heydays of the bond between the two countries, when it was a constitutionally decreed secular nation, pro-Western and largely detached from its geographical environment in terms of its aspirations, affiliations and desired future development.

Since then, Turkey has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis in its socio-cultural and political “DNA” – and until it undergoes a comparable “counter-revolution,” the chances of any genuine repair are slim indeed.

However, as long as the principle author of the country’s current Islamist revolution (Erdogan himself) remains in power, the odds on any counter-revolution taking place are negligible.

Accordingly, the most plausible way to promote conditions likely to induce an authentic, durable enhancement of Israeli-Turkish relations, is to undermine Erdogan, let him wallow in the morass of problems his own arrogance and bluster have created for him, so that his domestic adversaries can grow stronger and eventually replace him.

Regrettably, the current “deal” does precisely the opposite!

It allows him to boast of achievements and helps extricate himself — even if temporarily — from his current self-made difficulties. As such it serves to bolster his standing and this, necessarily, weakens his opponents, who strive to replace him.

Beyond official “spin”

Accordingly, beyond the official “spin” extolling the far-reaching benefits that will allegedly accrue to Israel as a result of this unfortunate and unnecessary “deal,” it is difficult to grasp how it will advance Israel’s interests in any meaningful way.  Sadly, it is far more likely that quite the reverse will prove true.

Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (

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  • Robert B Sklaroff Md

    Thus, I concur with these sentiments, supporting the decision to neutralize the Gaza “Blockade” kerfuffle, thusly:

    “Turkey is opposed to iran and its ambitions. (erdogan has his own.) By sandwiching syria and lebanon between the two most capable armies in the middle east, israel will have an easier time watching, and hopefully defeating, the mullahs’ proxies.”

    The rest is tangential, for any degree of rapprochement neutralizes conflict and empowers BB when relating with other neighboring countries [Greece/Cyprus] as well as Russia.

  • Robert B Sklaroff Md

    Shloime uses a term that requires a definition:

    There is one correct definition of the term frayer. It means “sucker” or “mark,” in the sense that somebody is a sucker if he goes along with the rules when nobody else is following them, or a mark if he’s a naive target for thieves.

    Contrary to popular belief, frayer did not enter modern Hebrew through Yiddish or German. It came from Russian (though its roots are obviously Germanic), specifically from the language of Russian thieves. In a footnote to The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn explains his use of the term and the translation of it.

    In Israeli life and society, the worst thing anybody can ever be is a frayer, and most people will do anything and everything they can at all times to avoid being a frayer. The only way to be certain at any given moment that you are not a frayer is to make somebody else a frayer.

  • Renanah Gemeiner

    You are so right! I was horrified to learn of this 20 million dollar deal which ONLY!!! communicates that Israel is guilty. All the work that activists like myself try to do – to explain the justice of Israel’s cause – seems to be undermined by Israel’s acceptance of guilt when these murderers attacked our Jewish boys! How dare the Jewish leaders agree to this deal which ONLY destroys our belief in the justice of our cause!
    This seems to be part of the “deal” I sensed when I attended the recent anti-BDS conference at the UN. This conference seems rather like an event to prepare our youth for the surrender of Judea and Samaria, as well as any sense of moral or legal right to the land. It seemed to be teaching the students that Arab convenience in the midst of their trying to murder us, is more important than protecting Jewish lives. For many reasons it seemed as if Israel has agreed to some secret deal by which she gives up her rights (and her security and future) in return from something??? In this Turkey deal she has robbed our youth of our pride and belief in ourselves, just as the conference did. I suppose that this is the best way to prepare for surrender. Perfidy!

  • Akiva Ben Hillel

    Sadly, I totally agree with Mr. Sherman. Turkey needs rapprochment with Israel. There is danger of an armed conflict with Russia, which still smarts over the downing of its jet. Turkey is terrified about the growth and strengthening of the Kurds including those in the Turkish borderlands. Is Israel now going to abandon its arms and intelligence assistance to the Kurds as part of the deal — abandoning them as they abandoned the South Lebanese Army? The Greeks and Non-Turksih-occupied Cypriots have developed seriously strong poliitcal and military ties with Israel. They are right to feel betrayed by Israel, which doesn’t bode well for a small country that should be counted on to support its friends and weaken its enemies. The gas pipeline ought to go through friendly states on its way to providing gas to Europe, not make Israel’s pipeline traversing Turkish territory hostage to the whims of the Turks, who will be able to stop the gas –“for technical malfunctions, of course”– as it suits them, say because the EU won’t admit them, or to punish Israel economically if Israel holds up deliveries of dual-use Turkish items to Hamas. If Turkey goes back to being a secular state which is guaranteed by the Army, as the turkish Constitution requires, then It would make sense for Israel to trust Turkey in its dealings with the terrorist Gaza entity. Ditto with Iran. With a change in governemt from a terrorist, fascist, Islamist, genocidal regime to a modern, democratic government that imprisons the mullahs and executes the leaders of the IRG Schutzstaffel, then Israel and Iran (along with Turkey) could comprise the sane, democratic and strategic partners that could defend Western civilization’s interest in the Middle East in the face of a resurgent, bellicose Russia in league with large Islamist terror entities pledged to the destruction of Israel and the US and the defeat and colonization of the European continent – from which the UK just escaped, like the Jews of Germany in the late 1930’s. Sadly the Israeli government bragged that this deal will mean millions of dollars in trade to Israel. Israel sells its birthright for a bowl of porridge? That didn’t work out so well for Esau nor for Chamberlain and Daladier. A country without a sense of honor and pride in itself and its history lacks the natioal cohesiveness and will to sacrifice for its own defense. A much better deal would have resulted in the Turksih Handschar regime paying compensation to Israel and its soldiers for the carefully planned terror attack on them by Erdogan and Israel could have agreed to allow the Turks to pay Israel $billions which Israel would agree to use for the benefit of the Gazan population and to reimburse the Israel Electric Company for Gazan’s chronically unpaid bills. If the Turks refused the terms, they could be forced to sit in their isolation, watching the Leviathan gas flow to Europe, bypassing Turkey -dependent on Russia’s goodwill for its gas- and they could enjoy the uprising of Turkey’s Kurdish population supported by the guerrilla attacks against the Turksih borderlands by the new Kurdish State established in formerly Syrian and Iraqi territory, generousl armed with Israeli drones and missiles. Turkey needed this deal much more than Israel. Israel should have extracted from the current despicable regime in Ankara much more than a Turkish shmatte sporting the emblem of Islam, flying over a building in Tel Aviv.

  • Max

    Turkey as an interloper in Gaza and the PA territories presumably with the benign intention of providing “humanitarian” aid is troublesome since Turkey under Erdogan is no friend of
    Israel or Jews anywhere including his own country. As to gas exports, while important, it could have been achieved by building a pipeline to Greece and thence to the rest of Europe, or by liquefying the gas in Israel and exporting LNG to Europe.

  • shloime

    100% spot on! if anything, the author may have understated the difficulties that erdogan has created for himself, especially with regards to russia, and the consequences for israel’s recent and very cordial cooperation with the russians. and embracing erdogan is a betrayal of the kurds.

    but there is another side to this. for better or for worse, turkey is the second largest army in nato, as big as britain, france and germany put together. and turkey has been actively lobbying against nato cooperation with israel.

    also, turkey is opposed to iran and its ambitions. (erdogan has his own.) by sandwiching syria and lebanon between the two most capable armies in the middle east, israel will have an easier time watching, and hopefully defeating, the mullahs’ proxies.

    because otherwise, on the face of it, this deal is for “freyerim”.

  • Yaakov

    Much more important than which demographic groups are supporting the deal is what Israeli governmental security analysts and strategists, with their inside information, think about its merits. Knowledge, not ideology, should decide. Economic interests must take a back seat to security concerns. I couldn’t care less whether Zoabi is gloating or not. We’ll see who gets the last laugh.

    • sherlock

      Yaakov “Knowledge, not ideology”

      Really??? – see below:

      “[After Gamal Abdel Nasser’s death] the ability of the Arabs to coordinate their political and military activities has diminished. Even in the past this ability was not great – now it is even less. There is no need to call up our forces, even when threats are made and enemy forces are deployed along the [post-1967] cease-fire lines. Before the Six Day War, every Egyptian troop movement into Sinai compelled Israel to call up reserves on a significant scale. Now, there is no need for such a callup as long as Israel’s lines of defense are emplaced along the Suez Canal…Israel’s military strength is sufficient to prevent the opposing side from attaining any military objective and the political realities prevailing between the superpowers is not conducive to a renewal of fighting as it was in 1969-1970.
      Accordingly, Israel has freedom of action to deal effectively in preventing another round of fighting, should Egypt wish to open fire again”. – Yitzhak Rabin, “The slow road to peace,” Ma’ariv, July 13, 1973

      “The nightmare stories of the Likud are well known. After all, they promised rockets from Gaza… For a year, Gaza has been largely under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. There has not been a single rocket. Nor will there be any rockets.” – Yitzhak Rabin, July 24, 1995

      I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement… will be appreciated by those near and far, reduce animosity, break through boycotts and sieges and advance us along the path of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors.” Ariel Sharon Knesset October 24, 2005

      “I am convinced the [disengagement] process… will provide more security for the citizens of Israel, and will reduce the burden on the security forces. It will extricate the situation from its [current] stagnation and open the door to a different reality, which will allow talks toward achieving coexistence.” Shaul Mofaz Knesset October 24, 2005

      Need I say more???