The Apology to Turkey and My Analysis of Obama’s Speeches

A reader at LobeLog  asked how I thought Netanyahu’s surprising and long-belated apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara killings fit in with my analysis of Obama’s speeches in Jerusalem and Ramallah. I thought my readers here would be interested in my response, so I reprint it below.

William,
I think it fits in perfectly. What Obama set out to do, in my view, was to reset his foreign policy priorities, given not only the pivot to Asia, but also the domestic political

Protesters at Ashdod, Israel one year after the IDF killed eight Turkish and one US civilian aboard the Mavi Marmara

Protesters at Ashdod, Israel one year after the IDF killed eight Turkish and one US civilian aboard the Mavi Marmara

realities that severely limit his options in dealing with Israel (i.e. AIPAC et al). He’s essentially trying to move the conflict out of the way.

It may well be that events, maybe in Syria, possibly even in Egypt or Jordan, will change the status quo by drawing Israel in and that may hamper the move to lessen US involvement in all of this. But for now, Obama will do what he must as dictated by US politics but I think little if anything more, and that was his message to the Israeli public.

To Bibi, I think he handed that perspective as a gift, or more precisely a payoff. Basically, he said I’m not going to push you the negotiating table, but you’re going to pay me back for that by making this issue less of a thorn in my side. I think the rapprochement with Turkey is the centerpiece of that, because while the split between those two US allies has not always been in the news, it is a central concern for US diplomats. This makes matters simpler.

I think Obama was also hoping that Bibi would agree to turn the heat back down on the Iran issue and let Obama take the lead. Such a thing would probably be wise for Israel, even from their point of view, because Obama’s own rhetoric on Iran has hardly been mollifying. But I think that was an area where Bibi was much less forthcoming. He knows his new defense minister prefers the US hit Iran rather than Israel, but also that he very much believes that the US should be pressured to do so–Ya’alon does not seem to share the assessment of his military and intelligence leaders on Iran, which is pretty much identical to the US’. Continue reading

The Scent of Anti-Semitism

In this week’s article at Souciant, I examine “two faces” of anti-Semitism, along with the question of whether being anti-Zionist or anti-Israel is the same as being anti-Semitic. As someone who is comfortable neither with the label “Zionist” nor “anti-Zionist” I’d like to think I bring some much needed perspective to that question. In any case, I look at it through the lens of the controversy over Greta Berlin and the Free Gaza Movement and the hysteria of many leading Jewish groups over some Protestant leaders having the temerity to suggest that aid to Israel should be monitored for compliance with US laws and policies, like all other foreign aid.

Everyone’s A Critic

My latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, reflects on the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman surprisingly confirming the words of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in their book The Israel Lobby.

Crazy for Palestine

In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I examine the hysteria in Jerusalem and Washington over next week’s vote, the precise nature of which we still don’t know, on the status of Palestine at the UN.

Our Own Worst Enemies: Fear is not a value

In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I examine the implications of Israel’s tattered relationship with Turkey, and the Israeli mindset that is driving it into ever-deeper isolation.

US Working Overtime To Mend Israel-Turkey Relations

This piece originally published at LobeLog

The Obama Administration is scrambling to keep itselfout of a difficult position between two of its most important Middle East allies, Turkey and Israel.

Obama, Netanyahu, and Erdogan

The two countries have seen their relations deteriorate for years now, highlighted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s dressing down of Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in 2009 and the confrontation over Israel’s killing of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a ship trying to run the blockade of Gaza last year.

Analysts have a variety of opinions on the importance of each country to US interests in the region, but US diplomats certainly want to keep a strong relationship with both. Congress, pushed by domestic pressures, especially pro-Israel lobbying groups, has a different approach.

The potential for problems for US diplomacy was previewed in March, 2010. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which had always been reserved on the matter of the Armenian Genocide (perpetrated by the Turks during and after World War I) issued a statement calling for American recognition of that crime. Turkey recalled its ambassador in response.

The matter went no further, but it illustrated the tensions between politics and diplomacy.

The pro-Israel lobby promoted the Armenian Genocide resolution. Now, however, they are supporting Netanyahu and potential rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. But that resolution was a signal that this could change, if Turkey’s relations with Israel degenerate further.

Israel and Turkey are at odds, but still technically allied. The Obama Administration wants to mend those fences, not tear them further asunder.

The immediate issue is Turkey’s demand for an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings. The UN will soon release a UN report, delayed now until August 20, which will state that Israel’s blockade in Gaza is legal, but that it used excessive force on the Mavi Marmara. If Israel apologizes before that report is released, it will blunt the effect of the latter conclusion. Continue reading

What Can Israel Do With New Friends In Greece And South Sudan?

Virtually no one disputes the fact that the Netanyahu government has become the most isolated in Israel’s history. Whether one supports or opposes Bibi’s policies, and whether or not one thinks the global reaction either worthwhile or unavoidable, the question of how to raise Israel’s standing in the world is one that people grapple with

The Israeli and South Sudanese flags

across the political spectrum, albeit in different ways.

Today, Israel finds itself with a new opportunity in North Africa, and a renewed relationship with a Mediterranean state in Europe. Only time will tell if Israel will make something of this chance, and it will probably depend even more on Benjamin Netanyahu’s successors than it does on Bibi itself.

The newly-independent South Sudan is building a relationship with Israel. With few friends in the region, that’s something Israel desperately needs. Continue reading