The Phone Call That Put Turkish-Israeli Relations Back on Track
On the Mark
By Mark Meirowitz, Columnist of the Jewish Post
President Barack Obama�s interests are to return to the old days and restore Israeli-Turkish relations. In photo: American, Israeli and Turkish navies during a joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean back in July of 2007.
Photo: Guy Palombo/IDF�s Spokesman for Israel Sun
A simple and brief telephone call between Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Friday began the process of restoring Turkish-Israeli relations and provided a much needed dose of optimism in spite of the precarious developments in the Middle East (especially in Syria). President Obama arranged this crucial phone call in which Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized for operational errors related to the Mavi Marmara debacle and committed to Israeli compensation for the Mavi Marmara victims - and Prime Minister Erdogan accepted Prime Minister Netanyahu's apology. Israel also agreed to the easing of the Gaza blockade.
This should lead to an exchange of Ambassadors between the two countries (diplomatic relations having been downgraded by Turkey following the Mavi Marmara incident) and to Turkey's dropping its legal actions against Israeli soldiers involved in the Mavi Marmara raid.
Reaction to these events in the American Jewish Community and the Turkish American Community was uniformly positive.
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said that, "we are delighted that, with the invaluable assistance of President Obama, Turkey and Israel, which have traditionally had long-standing and vibrant bilateral ties, have found a way to mend their differences and move forward in a positive direction." "This is good news for the region and far beyond." Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, released a statement that, "we applaud the restoration of relations between Israel and Turkey, two of America�s most reliable allies in the region. The long friendship and mutual cooperation between Israel and Turkey has been beneficial for both countries and an important model for partnership between Muslim nations in the region and Israel. Full diplomatic relations at this time of increased regional instability will serve the interests of both and contribute to international efforts to address the many challenges ahead. We express our appreciation to those who have been working to make today�s development happen, including the direct facilitation of President Obama".
The leadership of the major organizations in the Turkish American community, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), the Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) and the Turkish American Community Centers (TACC) also saw these events in a very positive light. In their joint statement, the leaders of these major Turkish-American organizations, Ergün Kirlikovali, President, ATAA; Ali Cinar, President, FTAA; and Adem Büyükacar, Secretary General, TACC, stated that "the Turkish American leadership expresses its sincere commendations for the forthright action of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who apologized to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a mishandled Israeli military operation that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish civilians, including a Turkish American, on a cruise ship, Mavi Marmara, in the eastern Mediterranean. The ship was heading for Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid ... Prime Minister Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology on behalf of the Turkish nation, and dropped all charges against the Israeli military. Furthermore, we are thankful to President Barack Obama who recently visited Israel and played a major role in orchestrating the phone call, which took place while he was still at the airport with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Hayirli Olsun! (Good Luck and Congratulations!)".
The hope is that these extraordinary developments will lead to a deep and lasting restoration of relations between Israel and Turkey. As the Syrian crisis rages, and the Middle East continues to be in turmoil, Turkey and Israel will need to work together, in tandem with the United States, to deal with the pressing issues in the region. Turkey's and Israel's leaders showed great courage, and we must again salute President Obama for being a true statesman and engineering what will forever be known as the phone call that put the Middle East back on track.