How Barack Obama Brought Turkey and Israel Back Together

Obama pushed for normalization of relations during his trip to Israel, capping years of work by U.S. diplomats to bring the two U.S. allies back together

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Jason Reed / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 21, 2013

From almost the moment President Obama touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport, he began to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make up with Turkey. The previously good relations broke down in 2010 after the Israelis raided a Turkish flotilla taking aid to the Gaza Strip. Nine activists were killed.

Since then, the U.S. has pushed Israel and Turkey — both close allies — to work through their issues. Officials at meetings at nearly every level from the President down brought up rapprochement. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Israel on March 1 on a trip to Ankara.

By day two of Obama’s visit, Netanyahu had agreed to set up a call with Erdogan. Given the two leaders’ busy schedules, it was not until just as Obama and Netanyahu were arriving back at the airport for the President’s departure to Jordan a day later that a call was possible. Obama and Netanyahu ducked into a trailer off of the red carpet set up for the departure ceremony.

President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jason Reed / Reuters

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu

For nearly half an hour, Netanyahu and Erdogan spoke through translators. Obama briefly got on the phone to say hello to Erdogan and ask that they follow up with another call soon. Netanyahu offered Turkey an official apology for the flotilla incident and promised compensation to the victims’ families. He said a subsequent Israeli investigation into the incident revealed “several operational errors,” according a statement released by the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Netanyahu also thanked Erdogan for his remarks condemning anti-Semitism to a Danish paper on March 20. Erdogan had been quoted last month calling Zionism “a crime against humanity,” and he told the Danish paper those remarks had been misinterpreted. During his Ankara visit, Kerry had condemned Erdogan’s statement on Zionism, urging the Turkish Prime Minister both publicly and privately to clarify them.

The deal was a coup for Obama, on his first foreign visit of his second term. It re-established diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey at a time when the region around them is in turmoil. Both Turkey and Israel border Syria, which is entering its third year of civil war. “We have regretted for a couple of years now the absence of normal relations between those two countries,” a senior Administration official told reporters on Air Force One en route to Jordan. “And we have worked with them and urged them both to reach out and try to put their differences between them.”

Netanyahu on Saturday said the deteriorating situation in Syria and both countries’ concerns about its regime’s chemical and biological weapons prompted the reconciliation. Still, Erdogan warned on Sunday that normalization of relations would not be immediate. Turkey will wait for Israel to pay the families compensation before embassies in either country reopen. Netanyahu told Erdogan that Obama had spent the past two days convincing him of “the importance of regional relations, the importance of Turkey-Israel cooperation, and that is what led him to take this initiative now,” the Administration official said. Up until the flotilla incident, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed close relations. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel, though tensions began to fray in 2003 after Erdogan, who has Islamist ties, was elected Prime Minister of Turkey.

39 comments
SemperFi1946
SemperFi1946

Our inept poser of a president is always demanding Israel make concessions and compromises, never the other parties!

EZA
EZA

While you shuffle through he say she say, Hundreds of people die each day.

Pointing a finger can be worse then pointing a gun, After a gun fight there can only be left one.

Unless you are willing to take arms and blow another man's, woman's or child's brains out, Why not peace ?

Establishing your left or right wing opinion on a thread doesn't make any change what so ever,

So bare arms, Or speak of peace...

EZA
EZA

While u people rant on he say she say, hundreds of people die each day.

Pointing the finger can be worse then pointing a gun, after a gun fight there can only be left one.

So unless u r willing to take arms and blow another mans, woman's or child's brains out, why not make peace ?

After all, u establishing ur left or right wing opinion on a thread doesn't make a change.

So get a gun, or speak of peace.

U decide...

artycohn
artycohn

The relationship between Israel and Turkey went south when Erdogan, an ardent Islamist, became Prime Minister of Turkey. Israel wanted to continue the previously good relationship, but Erdogan doesn't want to. He sent in towards Gaza a team of terrorists on the Mavi Manara to cause trouble. It is Erdogan who should have apologized.

anson.b.george
anson.b.george

This strikes me as a "Hey Look! Squirrel!" sort of situation...

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

The day the IDF killed those very violent "peace activists" from the "religion of peace" that went seeking "martyrdom", the Turkish army probably killed 90 Kurds that, unlike the Arabs (invaders from Arabia, 22 countries, 1 in Palestine, Jordan) have no country.

boulderfinfan
boulderfinfan

Yes our president is very good at coercion. he should get another noble peace prize.

mrxexon
mrxexon

Perhaps this has a dark side?

There is a possibility that Turkey will be needed as a base if military action against either Iran or Syria is decided upon. Israel has an interest in both countries and this apology may mask another need.


x

disinterested3rdparty
disinterested3rdparty

This article omits the $ cost to get Israel to make the phone call.  The Jewboys dont do anything without first taking a dip in the U.S. taxpayer trough.  Cost to the U.S. to get Israel to agree to a 1-time, 90 day freeze on settlements?  20 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.  Wonder what the price tag was for the latest phone call to Turkey?

ZacPetit
ZacPetit

Fascinating. But Americans should care because...?

It's about time we stopped propping up a government on the other side of the world and started caring more about our own people. Especially when that government takes the lands of the people around them, and is generally seen in the region as illegitimate. 

bobcn
bobcn

"He said a subsequent Israeli investigation into the incident revealed “several operational errors,”'

I hope the 'operational error' Netanyahu has discovered is that laying siege to 1.7 million people while continuing to appropriate their land and deny them their human rights is not only criminal but also a short sighted policy that will harm Israel's long term security.

DenisMacEoin
DenisMacEoin

I'm afraid Obama has not at all brought Israel and Turkey back together. Although Erdogan said he simply accepted the 'apology' (why did Israel have to make it in the first place: the trouble was caused by mainly Turkish terrorists), he has now gone on to make further demands on Israel, such as ending the essential and legal naval blockade of Gaza. The Erdogan government is Islamist in orientation, Turkish antagonism to Jews and Israel is as bad as in the rest of the Middle East, and the Israelis still have to struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. Obama does not understand the Middle East, does not understand Islam, and does not understand Israel. He has good qualities and some expertise in other matters, but he is the last person who should be trying to achieve the impossible in the Middle East.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Jay. This is not quite Carter, Sadat, and Begin hooking up at Camp David (pun intended? we report, you decide), but sometimes talking is better than shouting and shooting rockets (let alone tossing insults and revealing personal ID without permission as some rightie commenters do here, but I digress). Turkey was waaaaaay ahead of the curve of Muslim nations in dealing with Israel on peaceful terms (1949, vs. 1978 for Egypt and 1994 for Jordan, still waiting for Saudi Arabia and Iran), so let's get fences mended here between the two countries.


JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@disinterested3rdparty Actually, I'm told that the Israelis were bracing for a 5% cut in aid given the sequester and this Congress's distaste in giving foreign aid... 

JNS

greyngold
greyngold

@disinterested3rdparty Nice to be a pathetic biggoted moron. The cost was to ALLOW ISRAEL to BUY 20 F-35s. Jets that don't even work. Nice.

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

@disinterested3rdparty You don't have to arm Israel, you can do the wars all by your own, just as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eager to land in Syria? Haw about protecting Jordan from the Islamist? Or Saudi Arabia from nuclear Iran? Go ahead, make my day! I have always preferred spectator's sport to actual fighting. 

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

@bobcn "Laying siege to the Gaza Strip is the most human means to stop rockets flying from this lawless territory into Israel. Human rights are the rights of law abiding population, just as the right to stay out of jail applies only to non-criminals.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@bobcn That would be strategic, not operational and when it comes to strategic errors, Israel does nothing but make more of them.

It's the bully syndrome: when you think you're the biggest, toughest, most undefeatable guy around, you have no need to moderate your tone and make nice with others until people start ganging up on you to bring you down.  See also Napoleon, Hitler, and Cheney.

ErolStreet
ErolStreet

@DenisMacEoin I'm not an Erdogan supporter, but I'm afraid you did not get all your facts correct. Erdogan is not making further demands such as easing the blockade of Gaza, it was actually part of the original lot of conditions to Israel - it's nothing new. Erdogan is also not the only one calling for the easing of Gaza blockade, numerous UN humanitarian agencies has also made the same requests. There is certainly no Turkish antagonism to Jews - maybe to Israel and its policies to Palestinians. There is nothing illegitimate with what he is asking thus making your comments irrelevant.

bobcn
bobcn

"Laying siege to the Gaza Strip is the most human means to stop rockets flying from this lawless territory into Israel"

Really?  How does blocking business exports (which cripples the Palestinian economy) stop rockets?  How does blocking food imports stop rockets?   How does blocking concrete imports stop rockets?

What the siege does do is impoverish the Palestinians and compound their suffering.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@YehudaElyada

You have extremely oversimplified the situation.  From the perspective of the Palestinians, the Israelis invaded their lands, annexed their territories, threw them into two small regions and then laid siege to them until they surrendered.  From their perspective, the Israelis are far from law abiding citizens so why should they respect the laws enacted by Israel?

I'm not saying the Palestinians are in the right - I honestly have no idea who's right or wrong in this case and it is very possible that there is no right answer - I'm not even convinced that the total annihilation of either Palestine or Israel isn't the best solution.  I'm just saying that you can't dumb it down to "Palestinians are not law abiding citizens by firing their rockets" - it's not even close to that simple an argument.

DenisMacEoin
DenisMacEoin

@ErolStreet My understanding is that Erdogan issued his fresh demands on the DAY FOLLOWING Netanyahu's apology and its reception by Turkey. Erdogan has explicitly stated that if Israel does not comply with these demands, the deal is off. Israel's naval blockade is strictly legal under international and necessary for some degree of control of a territory ruled by a terrorist outfit that has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel. Thus, Erdogan is acting a bully to circumvent international law and to weaken Israel. He supports Hamas. He supports the IHCC, and no doubt he supports further terrorist or jihadist organizations. I'm well aware that many countries make unreasonable demands on Israel yet never ever act to ban groups like Hamas or correct the racist statements of Mahmoud Abbas. Israel has given up Sinai, given up Gaza, and has handed about 80% of the West Bank into PA hands. It has to struggle to survive, yet country after country (usually one dictatorship or another) is determined to tie Israel's hands in readiness for the next attack. Israel is a far far better place than any other country in the Middle East and beyond. No sane person would seek to destroy it. Yet that is precisely what Erdogan would like to do, presumably in order to win the greatest accolade of all, that he is the Saladin of the 21st century who has put the Jews in their place once and for all.

bobcn
bobcn

"What is "Palestinian land"?"

Land that Palestinians have owned and been living on for generations -- long before the current bunch of european immigrant settlers showed up.

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@bobcn @forgottenlord   What is "Palestinian land"?  80% of Palestine (just the name of a region, a Jewish name, BTW, never a country) is judenreinL  The Muslim Arab autocratic kingdom of Jordan, given by GB to one family from Arabia, Gaza, conquered from EGYPT (and not "Palestine") in a defensive war and given to the local Arabs and the most of Judea and Samarai reconquered in a defensive war against JORDAN, given by stupid Israeli politicians to Egyptian Muslim Arab terrorist Arafat and his PLO (PA today).

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@bobcn @ricardo_lion   Ah, The Guardian......  It mut be true, then.  Smokescreen.  They bash Israel everyday for defending against next door Muslim Arab bloody dictatorships, medieval kingdoms and jihadi grouops supported by Iran while they attacked Egypt, Yemen, Iraq twice, Libya recntly, are killing Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan and Libya right now.  Not to mention that their MI5 tortures their own Muslim citizens.  Plenty of food and luxury goods in Gaza.

bobcn
bobcn

@forgottenlord @bobcn

Maybe if the Israelis stopped their assault on Palestinians and their annexation of Palestinian land then the Palestinians would stop defending themselves. 

Sure, the rockets suck (as does dropping bombs in densely populated areas to kill a few fighters in their homes -- which has been much more indiscriminately lethal).  But how else do the Palestinians defend themselves?  Acquiescence doesn't work.  

Currently, the only choice the Palestinians have is to die slowly or die quickly.  Which one would you choose?

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@bobcn

I accept that it's a war crime, but that doesn't make his argument invalid.  Further, his argument was to some extent that it was the least warcrimish response they could make to getting bombed by rockets.

bobcn
bobcn

@ricardo_lion @bobcn

"There is more than enough food in Gaza.  No blocking of food"

Not true.  For example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/17/israeli-military-calorie-limit-gaza

http://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/gaza

Israel has essentially turned Gaza into the world's largest prison.

The notion that abusing Palestinians will get the Israelis peace and security is belied by this:  The Palestinians in the West Bank have largely acquiesced to Israeli demands and been peaceful for years.  The Israeli response has been to accelerate the annexation of their land.  The Palestinians in Gaza see this and are incentivized to resist.  

People have a right to self defense.  Both peoples have a right to exist with peace and self determination.  As long one group has its boot on the throat of the other there will never be peace.  It's human nature.  Wouldn't you fight to defend your family?

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@bobcn   There is more than enough food in Gaza.  No blocking of food.  The Arabs in judenrein Gaza get money from the UN, EU, US, rich Arabs and even (stupid) Israel!  Their per capita income is higher than Norway`s and they don`t even have to work. like everybody else.  Also judenrein Gaza shares a border with judenrein Egypt.  

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@bobcn @forgottenlord Collective punishment:  The Muslim terrorists in Gaza firing rockets on Israel`s civilians (while hidding behind their own = double war crime).

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@bobcn 

His point is valid.  Whether it is the most humane method is in question but the general idea behind a siege is to starve them out until they capitulate to your demands.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@greyngold

First: I didn't say it was simple, nor did I say the Palestinians were in the right.  I would appreciate it if you actually read my points first before you criticize me for oversimplifying things.

Second: it really doesn't matter whether they were Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian or a thousand other groups, they are still a group that was conquered by Israel, they want their land back, and in their minds, it is Israel who broke the law when they took the land so why should the Palestinians respect Israel's claim.

But I'd like to bring the focus to your point about history being written by the winners.  To some extent, Israel is paying for horrible timing because the wars it has fought have been under the old era where war was a method to take land and expand your territory while the majority of the West has entered into a mentality where wars of conquest are inherently evil and the right to self-determination is sacrosanct - and you'll find people looking at Quebec, Catalina, Ireland, Scotland, Native Americans and dozens more with equal disdain for the subjugation of a minority by a major western power - and the answers become increasingly complex as generations go by who were raised on the lands that are now in dispute.

If Israel had been formed sometime since Vietnam, I think there would be little dispute that Israel was in the wrong and wouldn't be recognized by most western powers.  But because it was formed when it was formed and because it expanded to its current borders during the era of sociological evolution about the role of war in modern society (in no small part due to the disaster of Vietnam, the collapse of the colonial era as colonies everywhere rebelled, and the pall of the Cold War), Israel gets a disproportionate amount of flak for what it did and it's really hard to figure out how you deal with the bridge between the two eras and the one country stuck between them - not really able to go backwards without a genocide, not really able to finish the job which would be a genocide, just stuck in an incredible stalemate between two eras and unable to answer the question of "what next?"

bobcn
bobcn

@greyngold @forgottenlord @YehudaElyada

"The palestinians did not exist until 1967"

Palestinian families have been living on that land for generations.  Literally hundreds of years.  Now they're being kicked out of their homes and orchards to make way for Israeli settlers -- most of whom have recently arrived from eastern Europe.

greyngold
greyngold

@forgottenlord @YehudaElyada And history is written by the victors. 

The palestinians did not exist until 1967, when the Israelis pushed egypt out of what is now Gaza and Jordan out of what is now the West Bank. At that point, there were huge populations of jordanians and egyptians remaining in those areas, and those governments abandoned them. At that point, a nationless group of people banded together and began an armed resistance for 25 years, until 1992 in Oslo, though there have been 3 armed intafadas since then. 

The thing is, that other than 1967, the israelis did not start a war with their NEIGHBORS (not counting the Palestinians, because they are semi-sovereign and, frankly, both parties are responsible for starting wars between them, as rocket fire provides justification for retaliation, and vice versa). However, through those wars, Israel has captured territory. This is their territory, to do with as they will. The complication is that there are innocent people being used as pawns by every country in the region (Israel included) living on those lands. It has created a huge, complicated problem that is not nearly as simple as you want to make it seem forgottenlord. 

The fact is that the rocket fire from Gaza is just as illegal, if not more, than the excessive nature of Israeli retaliation (arguably the rocket fire is worse because, though it is less effective, it is exclusively targeted at civilians, though this is only arguable as a means vs. ends argument). 

DenisMacEoin
DenisMacEoin

@ErolStreet My grovelling apologies! I am not an Islamist but an Islamicist. There is a world of difference. Rest assured that I am not about to behead you.

DenisMacEoin
DenisMacEoin

@ErolStreet Yes and no. A lot of people have been making that demand of Israel for several years, but the point here is that Obama had engineered what was supposed to be a way through the logjam (in respect of Turkey) and Israel had swallowed perfectly legitimate disgust and apologized for something it had not done (the blame for the Mavi Marmara lay with the IHCC militants on board the ship). That should have been the start of fresh relations, but Erdogan chose to make his old demands afresh when he too should have swallowed his disgust. The Palestinians get more money through UNWRA than any other refugee-based people in the world. Gaza has poverty, but so has Israel. In Gaza, there are huge numbers of smuggled luxury cars, a lavish shopping mall stocked with luxury goods, a members-only country club, 5-star hotels, and a hell of a lot of guns and missiles whose only purpose is to frighten and kill Israelis. And don't discount the money poured into Gaza by Iran, Saudi Arabia and others. This is not opinion, but checkable fact. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it left behind a complex of state-of-the-art greenhouses worth millions of dollars, destined to kick-start the Gazan economy. By the second day, every inch of those greenhouses had been turned to broken glass and rubble, by the Gazans themselves. I don't ignore the plight of the Palestinians, but their total refusal to make peace and live at peace with Israel cancels out my pity to a large degree. As do missiles fired into civilian areas, suicide bombers, and a constant flow of racism in the pressed and on television. Conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank have improved enormously since Israel took charge of security. We need balance, and I'm pleased you are not an anti-Israel ranter, as so many posters are. We might find a lot of common ground. But until you can understand why Israel struggles to survive, not economically (their prosperity is mainly their own doing as one of the world's top states for education, medical research, IT research, and its long history of start-ups), but because of the determination of all its neighbours and Iran to wipe it from the page of time (az safhe-ye ruzegar). It was invaded in 1948, was close to massive invasion in 1967, was invaded again in 1973. It has suffered decades of severe terrorist attacks, and is disliked throughout the Islamic world. I am an Islamist (a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies), not an Islamophobe. Don't be so quick to pigeonhole people.

ErolStreet
ErolStreet

If your understanding that Erdogan issued fresh demands, then you haven't done your research. The demands have been in place for 2 years now. However, regardless of you're interpretion of the blockade, there are innocent people suffering in Gaza which both Hamas and Israel are complicit. Arguing for and against whose is to blame is irrelevant. The problem is getting humanitarian aid to them which Israel is preventing for political reasons without considering the people who are suffering.

Sorry I cannot debate with you regarding the other contents of your feedback because it's based on opinion and not fact - more slanted to an Islamophobic one in nature. However, I can say, I don't see how Israel struggles to survive. Israel gets billions of aid from the US - more than any other country in the world. However, by comparison, the Palestinians get a fraction of what Israel gets from the whole world whereas Israel gets its aid directly from the American taxpayer. To say that Israel struggles is delusional and to completely ignore the plight of the Palestinians is ridicules.