Turkey Is Not Israel's Enemy

Israel must overcome the obsession of prestige and make every effort to revive from the ruins its ties with Turkey.

The decision by the Turkish National Security Council to include Israel on its map of strategic threats is serious and a subject of concern. This is the first time Israel, which until recently was Turkey's close ally and a strategic partner, has been tagged with a definition that befits an enemy state.

This is not merely a gesture. The Turkish definition also has practical implications, some of which have already been implemented, like the cancellation of joint exercises and a diplomatic embargo. The decision will also affect cooperation in the future.

The deterioration of relations did not begin with the rise of the Justice and Development Party to power in 2002. For six years, until Operation Cast Lead, the two governments and peoples behaved like absolute partners sharing common interests. The policy of siege on the Gaza Strip, particularly Operation Cast Lead, along with the folly of the deputy foreign minister, who insulted the Turkish ambassador publicly, marked a watershed in relations between the countries.

These ties have since deteriorated rapidly and reached an all-time low after the flotilla incident.

Turkey does not have clean hands when it criticizes Israel over its policy. The character of Turkey's war against Kurdish militants is not different from Israel's war. Also, it is moving closer to Iran, and its close ties with Syria are suspicious not only to Israel. But Turkey and Israel have known how to have successful, close relations, even at times of political disagreement.

Now too, just as it seems the two countries are on the verge of breaking links, we have to overcome the obsession of prestige and make every effort to revive the ties from the ruins. After all, in Israel, too, the operation against the flotilla is not considered to have been a complete success. Moreover, the decision to stop the flotilla brought about the opposite result. Israel, under international pressure, had to ease the siege on Gaza.

It will not be disastrous if Israel expresses sorrow for the deaths of Turkish civilians, even if it does not offer an official apology and if it agrees to offer symbolic compensation to the families of the dead. The damage to the country that is being caused by clinging to matters of prestige is much more serious.