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A combination of determined American diplomacy, coinciding interests, regional threats and a new political map in Israel have produced the official reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. This reconciliation should have taken place three years ago, close to the time of the tragic raid of the Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish civilians were killed.

Almost everything possible has been said about that wretched affair. It was investigated from every angle, lessons were learned and it could have long ago been buried in the archives of the two countries as another difficult incident of the kind that sometimes happens between friendly countries. Instead, it swelled, fed by prestige and ego, until it created a deep and dangerous rift between two countries, whose ties had been an excellent example of fellowship and mutual appreciation not only on the political and military level, but between the two peoples.

Even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be lauded now for apologizing, it is difficult to understand how he failed to take into account the political risks when he permitted a military operation, which at best was unnecessary and, after complications ensured, prevented the crisis from ending a long time ago.

The governments of Israel and Turkey must now act quickly decisively to restore ties between them and their peoples. The bitter aftertaste of the affair will not disappear overnight, but the heads of the two countries have already shown that they can shape public opinion, and so we may expect that they will know how to heal the trauma.

The formal steps, like returning the ambassadors, dropping the indictments against Israeli officers and paying compensation into the fund to make restitution to the families of those killed, are just the launch pad for the rehabilitation required on all levels. As both countries have learned, public declarations, the attitude of the media and mutual gestures have huge power to destroy ties or to build them rock-solid.

After the destruction, the work of rehabilitation is now the challenge on the doorstep of the two leaders. They cannot lose any more time.