Alliance Between Horse Traders

Like in 'The Sopranos,' one pays for an insult - there is either a murder or compensation. The free lunch with Turkey is over. Now it's Israel's turn to pay.


What is it about Turkey that angers the Israelis so much that it seems that if they had the chance, they would drop a nuclear bomb on it? Why is it that when the Turkish prime minister says out loud what protesters around the world are shouting, he is marked as the enemy of the people? Why is it that when he preaches to Israel and demands exactly what many Israelis are demanding from their government, the fury rises as if Turkey were Iran? It was enough to see the protests in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv to understand that only one slogan was missing: "Death to Erdogan; may Turkey be destroyed."

True, Turkey sponsored the flotilla that Israel perceived as a direct Katyusha attack on it, but Ireland is also sending a ship, and Greece and Cyprus allowed the ships to leave their territory. True, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not ceased attacking Israeli policy for the past year and a half, but the cold shoulder from U.S. President Barack Obama hurts much more.

It seems that Israel's response stems from the kind of betrayal felt by horse traders. The strategic and grassroots alliance between Turkey and Israel was built on the attraction between two countries that found each other like waifs lost in a scary forest. Turkey was ostracized from the Arab world, which it detested and, like Israel, regarded as backward, neglected and hopeless. Turkey, like Israel, saw Iran as an ignorant country that could export the Islamic revolution and threaten its stability and character. Nothing was more natural than to form an alliance, embrace each other's army, open the gates wide to each other and declare a partnership.

The dividends followed swiftly. A Turkish company won the tender to build Ben-Gurion International Airport (until the firm went bankrupt ). Turkey thought up the "all-inclusive" package for Israeli tourists, hung signs in Hebrew at its vacation spots, almost sold water to Israel, allowed the Israel Air Force to use its airspace and was bound with Israel in a free-trade agreement with the United States. In exchange, the Jewish lobby in Washington promoted Turkish interests. Like Tony Soprano and Chris Moltisanti, one is the wily boss and the other a young captain; each has the other's back.

Then Turkey realized that the relationship not only meant it had to swallow many bitter pills, it was also tied in a one-sided alliance without being able to develop a new regional strategy. Turkey is one of the only countries that thumbed its nose at the rules of the zero-sum game this region dictates. It's a game by which anyone linked to Israel cannot be linked to the Muslims. Turkey openly maintained excellent relations with Israel while making connections with Syria, signing huge deals with Iran, granting agricultural cultivation rights to Saudi companies and meeting with Hamas leaders.

Turkey sincerely believed that it could also persuade its ally, Israel, to take advantage of its abilities and connections to promote the peace process with the Palestinians and Syria. Turkey had still not digested the fact that its horse trading with Israel only strengthened Israel's belief that it does not need peace. Erdogan was so convinced that the phone call he arranged for former prime minister Ehud Olmert with Syrian President Bashar Assad had transformed him into an equal partner that he forgot that Olmert cared more about his own legal future than Israel's future. Two days later, Operation Cast Lead broke out, completely surprising Erdogan, who still thought he was part of the game.

In the realm where the rules of the political mafia prevail, honor plays a major part. Syria and Egypt are entangled because of honor, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - which have made up in the meantime - locked each other out because of honor, and now Israel and Turkey are seeking their lost honor. Each was insulted to its very depths because of a sense of betrayal. But like in "The Sopranos," one pays for an insult - there is either a murder or compensation. The free lunch with Turkey is over. Now it's Israel's turn to pay. That is unbearable, especially when it involves a country perceived in Israel as a junior partner that certainly cannot dictate policy. No doubt, Turkey must disappear.