Ayalon has embarrassed Israel in handling of Turkey’s ambassador
By Rabbi Dow Marmur
JERUSALEM (Press Release)–Like most people whom I’ve talked to, I’m ignorant about what’s really going on between Israel and Turkey. Of course, that doesn’t stop me – or anybody else for that matter – from commenting on it.
It seems quite clear that Turkey has decided to lean toward the East – Iran and its satellites – instead of looking to the West, i.e., the European Union (which doesn’t seem to want it) and even Israel (that does). It has gone cold as far as Israel is concerned.
Though we’re told that there are strong strategic and mutually beneficial ties between Israel and Turkey, political expediency seems to have gained the upper hand at the expense of prudent diplomacy. It’s by no means primarily Israel’s fault, but – as people who quarrel tell us – an inappropriate response can be as bad as a nasty attack.
Diplomatic responses, we’re told, should be measured even when firm, tactful even when reactive and always delicate. Though Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose task it is to mind much of the Turkey file, is known for being firm and reactive, he’s not known for being measured, tactful and delicate. That’s why he’s virtually persona non grata in many countries, something quite extraordinary for a holder of his office. Nobody would accuse him of following in the footsteps of Moshe Sharet, Abba Eban, Shimon Peres and other former Foreign Ministers.
In fact, Peres together with Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, have been minding the foreign affairs store while Lieberman, it seems, has concentrated on rhetoric and backroom politics intended to further the fortunes of his own party at the expense of national interests.
Speculations suggest that his Turkey tantrums may have been intended to stop Barak and another cabinet member to travel to Ankara in a few days’ time. They’re generals and, whatever else may suffer in the present cold climate, the military ties between Turkey and Israel are likely to survive because they’re good for both.
We were told that Lieberman so much wanted to be Foreign Minister that he made it a non-negotiable condition for joining the present coalition government, but it’s still not clear why he hankered after an office for which he’s demonstrably unsuitable instead of many others in which his Putin-style politics would go down much better.
Though recent criticism of Israel by Turkish political leaders has been harsh at times, the responses of their Israeli counterparts seem to be silly. You never achieve much by imitating your foe. Thus by blaming the Turkish government for anti-Semitism in Turkey’s free media is as productive as was blaming Sweden for the lies that appeared in print and on the air in that country. How would the Government of Israel feel if it was to be made responsible for the things that are written and said here about other countries?
The last straw was, of course, the staged humiliation of Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, as Ayalon proudly showed the media before his encounter with the envoy. And now he has had to apologize, but apparently not enough. Turkey wants more and may get it, whether it deserves it or not, especially if Barak is to travel there as planned.
Occasionally I still imagine that in a democracy those in high office know how to act in the best interest of the country. The Turkish fiasco has reminded me how naïve I really am in my understanding of Israeli – and probably other – politicians.
Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He now divides his time between Israel and Canada