Our 'all-included' ties with Turkey
Even the best relations can be destroyed by skewed expectations.
One of the biggest contributions Turkey has made to Israeli culture is the term "everything included." Beyond the use of this phrase in tourism and its migration to economics, politics and the military, the term has evolved to represent the Israeli worldview. Like the Israeli tourist who receives "everything included" in Turkey, Turkey viewed its relations with Israel before the Gaza flotilla crisis.
From the moment Turkey chose to establish familial relations with the Jewish state, everything was included: free trade, enormous military acquisitions, a willingness to sell water to Israel, intelligence and military cooperation, and a political alliance. All these thing adorned a deep and inexplicable feeling of admiration and warmth, which did not depend on interests.
In such everything-included relationships, emotions play a bigger role than is desirable. There's no room for partial acceptance, no small print. If Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he's taking Judaism and the Jews to his heart, he also has to adopt Zionism and certainly always support Israel's policies. If Israel sees Turkey as a sister country, it has no right to be suspicious of its Muslim character or torpedo its ambitions in the Middle East.
This formula supposedly began crumbling with the rise of the Justice and Development Party to power in 2002 and the appointment of Erdogan as prime minister in 2003. Suddenly, the profound criticism of Israel's policies in the West Bank by former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who called Ariel Sharon a terrorist, was conveniently forgotten. Former President Suleyman Demirel, who was considered a close friend and signed the joint military agreement in 1996, blamed Israel for being the side undermining the peace process.
No one claimed then that Turkey was anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, and certainly not that it was motivated by Islamist ideology. And Erdogan, who became suspicious to Israelis, didn't damage ties with Israel until 2006. A year earlier, he even visited Israel and offered to mediate between Jerusalem and the Palestinians.
But Israel convinced itself that because the everything-included concept was a Turkish invention, the deal obliged only Turkey. Israel continued to gauge its relations with its neighbor only via military acquisitions and commercial ties. As long as these factors didn't change, Israel was sure its policies in the West Bank were impervious to criticism, and any Turkish criticism stemmed from Islamist, pro-Palestinian or pro-Iranian sentiments, not from Turkey's troubles fostering a friendship with an occupying nation while establishing its position in the Middle East.
Turkey's policy, Israel reasoned, would always conform to Israel's whims. Otherwise, it would be a blatant violation of the everything-included principle, which in any event Israel treated with contempt. Israel was so contemptuous that when Erdogan offered then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to mediate between Israel and Hamas to prevent what became Operation Cast Lead, Olmert didn't even bother to return his call.
The gap in expectations between Turkey and Israel is what turned the Mavi Marmara incident into an earthquake. Otherwise, it's impossible to understand the difference between Israel's apology to the Egyptians for the killing of Egyptian officers after the terror incident on the border in August 2011, and the insistence on not apologizing to Turkey.
In both cases, the term "a justified operation" preserved the notion of purity of arms. The difference is that there are no everything-included relations between Israel and Egypt, which in August 2011 was about to seal the prisoner-exchange deal for Gilad Shait. Israel doesn't take Egypt for granted, so Israel sees any harm to Egypt's honor or citizens as requiring immediate repair. Turkey, by contrast, is considered a satellite state that has suddenly reared its head. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology reflects a new understanding that the one who seeks everything-included relations has to pay for it in kind.