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October 23, 2012, Tuesday

‘Odd’ Israeli call

Despite the strained ties between Israel and Turkey over Israel’s 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship in which it killed nine people, former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Pinhas Avivi recently offered, through the media, to sit down with Ankara at the negotiation table without preconditions and to discuss the Syrian crisis.

But Ankara dismissed the possibility, a response that columnists all support, saying that Israel should first fulfill the Turkish criteria for the normalization of ties.

Fikret Bila, a Milliyet columnist, says Israel’s raid of the aid ship in international waters undoubtedly constituted an act of piracy. And after such an act against the law, Israel did not accept fault in any way, nor give a positive response to Ankara’s demands for an official apology, compensation for the families of the Mavi Marmara victims and the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Moreover, it continued with its threats. Looking at this picture, Israel is the one dynamiting Turkish-Israeli relations.

In this sense, Avivi’s call could have been seen as a positive step, if the content and method of delivery had been different. The call has been considered rather odd, first because it was made through the media rather than as a direct communication with Ankara. Second, it is odd that such a call came given the state of the Syrian crisis. Third, Avivi’s demand that the two countries should come together “without preconditions” means that Israel wants to continue to ignore all the conditions Turkey once set out, and that it wants Turkey to acknowledge Israel’s illegal act. The first two oddities are already suspicious, but the third renders the call an impossible one to accept, Bila says. If Israel really wants its relations with Turkey to normalize, it should start with an apology. Otherwise, any call for normalization will be nothing more than clutching at straws.

The Star’s Fehmi Koru says, first of all, that deteriorating relations between the two countries are not the fault of the two parties. Turkey has never adopted an attitude other than friendship towards Israel and, more importantly, Turkey’s reaction against Israel does not belong only to the government; Turkish citizens are also outraged over Israel’s inhumane acts. The Turkish government is merely conveying this reaction to Israel. Koru thinks Israel’s call, which came suddenly, might be due to the financial repercussions Israel has been experiencing due to its damaged relations with Turkey. But Turkey should and will insist on its simple and realistic demands.

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