Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked to speak with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert just before the start of Israel's offensive in Gaza. Olmert avoided Erdogan because he did not want to tell the Turkish premier about the coming attack. He did not want to be in Menachem Begin's situation when Begin spoke to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat one time in 1981 and did not tell him Israel was about to attack Iraq's nuclear reactor. As a result, Erdogan was enraged and insulted. Turkish sources say Erdogan's campaign of insults against Israel in recent weeks is a reaction to this.
"Israel is the biggest provoker of terror in the world," the Turkish justice minister accused. Erdogan no longer wants to talk to Olmert, ties between Ankara and the Israeli ambassador have been cut off, an Israeli basketball team was attacked by fans in Ankara and Israeli tourists are advised to hold off on trips to Turkey. "Being in Ankara feels like being in a hostile Arab country," an Israeli official stationed in Turkey told Haaretz.
In Jordan, Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi gave a speech in parliament asking to "re-evaluate ties between Israel and Jordan," the first time this has happened since the two countries made peace. No denials or corrections were issued. "Jordan and Israel have important mutual interests," an Israeli foreign ministry official said indifferently. Do they? Does that argument take into account Jordan's delicate position regarding the Palestinians, Hamas or its general public? How does that official respond to the Jordanian ambassador's return to Amman?
Qatar, which is on the list of moderate countries, still allows in Israeli representatives and holds talks with Israel, but it is now closer to the Syrian-Iranian axis than the Saudi-Egyptian one. Of all the cease-fire initiatives, Qatar favors the one by Syria, which supports Hamas. Qatar favors this over the Egyptian proposal. Saudi Arabia, another moderate, has started to talk about "turning its back" to its peace initiative unless the international community stops Israel.
Just three weeks ago the regional leaders were euphoric. Turkey spoke about continuing mediation between Israel and Syria, and its president was about to visit Jerusalem; Syria talked about direct negotiations with Israel; Jordan was steadfast in its traditional position of guaranteed friendship with Israel; the foreign ministers of Qatar and Israel acted like best buddies; and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country had no intention of abandoning the Saudi peace initiative just because the Israeli right was benefiting from it.
Such scenes have disappeared. Even our friendly partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has cut his ties. Israel is again in a familiar situation: a threatened state, not speaking to any of its neighbors and not willing for anyone to waste its time with talks.
Short-term tactics - that's all Israel is capable of. On the issue of relations with Turkey? They'll need us when the U.S. Congress debates the massacres of the Armenians. Upset Jordanians? They get water from us and signed a free trade agreement with the United States thanks to us. Qatar? It leans on our U.S. ally for support. Now it wants to join the axis of evil? And Syria too is turning its back on us? We've told everyone there is no partner for peace. Our key industry is war, not peace or talks with our neighbors. We want only want Arabs as enemies.
For a moment it seemed like we convinced ourselves that ties with the Arabs were not important until it turned out we needed Egypt's help to solve our "problems" with Hamas, and that Qatar helped solve the crisis in Lebanon. And Jordan is able to keep the border safe and until only recently we wanted so badly to meet with the Saudi king.
And there's one more small, pestering problem keeping us from enjoying our indifference toward our neighbors. Who has gained so far from the situation? So far it is Hamas, which can claim to have undermined greatly Israel's ties with Turkey, Jordan and Qatar. And it has only just begun.
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