In Turkey Deal, Israel Dazzles With Its Anti-agreement Pathology

There would have been no Israeli compensation to Turkey, no Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla and no flotilla at all, for that matter, if Israel hadn't imposed its suffocating blockade on Gaza in the first place.

Naval commandos who participated in deadly March 31, 2010  raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara.
IDF Spokesman's Office

It appears that Israel is not yet ready for the agreement that will restore its relations with Turkey. It’s not ready for any agreement, and not just with Turkey. It’s enough to view the reactions, the muscle-flexing, after it was announced to understand its anti-agreement pathology.

Israel has grown so accustomed to living without agreements, without peace processes, without reconciliations, that even an attempt to reach a financial-legal agreement that would permit the two states to maintain normal relations without becoming enemies turned into a six-year-long saga. A saga of the all-inclusive kind: severed ties, mutual recriminations, suspension of defense cooperation, wrenches thrown into the works. The only thing left out was some military attack on Turkey.

The breakdown in relations was not all Benjamin Netanyahu’s fault. In the who-did-more-damage competition, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s odds of winning are more than even. As Thomas L. Friedman wrote in The New York Times back in 2003, “The single most under-appreciated force in international relations is humiliation.” Humiliation is the sister of prestige, and Israel and Turkey were so strongly in their grip that they were incapable of distinguishing between interests and insult.

But it’s the response in Israel that we care about. While the Turkish government and public welcomed the agreement, treating it as another chapter in our relations, in Israel it was treated like territorial withdrawal in exchange for peace, at the very least: Look how we crumpled, why did we apologize, and above all, how could we abandon our soldiers and pay compensation to the Turkish “terrorists”? “[C]ompensating the attackers of Israeli soldiers is inconceivable, especially when those signing onto the deal are the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Bennett trio. Let every Jewish mother know that right-wing leaders will compensate those who attack her son,” wrote the cardboard opposition head Isaac Herzog on his Facebook page.

Let every Jewish mother know, and Herzog too, that Israel not only paid but also released thousands of prisoners in return for Gilad Shalit and soldiers’ remains, and would be willing to pay a lot of money for information about its missing soldiers. Every Jewish mother, and Herzog, should also remember that the Israel Defense Forces itself holds onto the remains of Palestinians and does not release them to their grieving families just as Hamas does with dead and missing Israelis.

But above all, every Jewish mother should remember that the Turks who attacked her son, and who will now receive compensation, would not have bothered with a flotilla had the Israeli government not imposed a suffocating blockade on the Gaza Strip. A blockade that did not prevent Operation Pillar of Defense, nor Operation Protective Edge, a blockade that will not be lifted even after the agreement with Turkey, and will continue to cause the Strip to go on simmering, even after Turkey builds a power station and a desalination plant there.

And when the boiling geyser finally blows, and the missiles start falling, Herzog and the Jewish mother will march together in a demonstration and wave a poster reading “Lift the Gaza blockade” and they will regret that the agreement did not include its complete elimination. It’s hard to find any country whose nose would be put out of joint over a reconciliation agreement with another country, over the chance to patch up relations that were once excellent – including under Erdogan – before becoming a poisonous stew.

The power of the reconciliation agreement will be measured not in the force of the frustration and anger it causes to the families of the dead and missing, or to impotent politicians, nor by the profit and loss account of each state, but by the willingness of the government, and especially of its leader, to view the mere fact of its signing as a net gain.

Would our situation be better without the agreement? But Israel the pariah has so many friends, it seems, that it can afford to give up on normal relations with an important state like Turkey.