Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh criticism of Israel for its policy in the territories in general and in Operation Cast Lead in particular unjustly changed Turkey's status from that of a close friend to that of an almost-enemy. Israel attributed Erdogan's criticism to the pan-Islamic slant of Turkey's ruling party, the country's growing ties with Iran and the aim of Turkey and Syria to replace their Western allies with Arab ones.
In a single moment we forgot the fact that it was Turkey that managed to renew the dialogue - albeit indirect - between Syria and Israel; that despite its extensive commercial ties with Iran, this Muslim state has no intention of damaging its own relations with Israel; and that ties with the West - including Israel - are part of Turkey's strategic concept.
The Turkish criticism is no different in essence from that being heard in some European countries or on American campuses. If it is sharper, that is partly because of the personal insult felt by Erdogan, who a few days before Operation Cast Lead hosted then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and even conducted an indirect phone conversation between Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan's request to attempt to mediate between Israel and Hamas was rejected; instead, the Turkish premier was forced to deal with the fallout from a violent operation in Gaza.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is trying to put an end to the public account-keeping between Israel and Turkey. He proposes that Turkey resume its mediation between Israel and Syria. This is an appropriate proposal, one that testifies to a realistic approach that aspires to put aside the criticism, out of an understanding that peevish anger cannot be the basis for relations between two countries that attach strategic importance to the ties between them.
The Turkish side, too, apparently wants to move past the disagreement and restore relations with Israel. The words of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu testify to that. On the other hand, the harsh words being hurled in Turkey by his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, are hurting more than they are helping.
Israel's interest lies in restoring relations with Turkey, just as it does in renewing the Syrian track. If Turkey is the catalyst for that, we should avail ourselves of its good services.
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