Dear Friends of Israel,
It was noteworthy that President Obama’s first trip abroad during his second term was to Israel, after visiting Turkey and Egypt at the beginning of his first term. The visit demonstrated that the affairs of the Middle East are still at the forefront of world politics. For Israel the visit was very meaningful, simply because it was so long awaited. By outward appearances, it was a formal visit with the exchange of official courtesies. No one expected it to end with Israel’s apology to Turkey for the death of Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara; an apology obviously prompted by Obama. It also showed that the visit was an occasion for strategic discussions regarding the current situation in the region. The most urgent problem is clearly the situation in Syria, a country that borders both Turkey and Israel.
The incident on the Mavi Marmara poisoned the previously good relationship between Israel and Turkey, hindered NATO cooperation and joint operations by the west against the Assad regime in Syria and clearly needed to be mended. Obama actually managed to convince Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of the need of an apology, and apparently a majority of the new Israeli government agreed with taking that step. The new Defense Minister, Yaalon, and the new General Chief-of-Staff, Benny Gantz, praised the step toward renewing the good relationship with Turkey.
The only top government official to condemn the step as a grave mistake was the suspended Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman. There were others though, who criticized the apology and called hopes for an improvement of the relationship with Turkey an illusion, in light of the things that Erdogan has said about Israel, such as, “Zionism is a crime against humanity.” For his part, an apology for that would have been appropriate, but he masked his “slip-up” with the explanation that his meaning was incorrectly interpreted.
For many, rebuilding the once good relationship with Turkey is not just a matter of security and political stability, but a matter of economics as well. In some ways it was surprising that Erdogan and his Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu accepted the Israeli apology so readily. One reason surely must have been the declining economic situation in Turkey, where the quarrel with a key trading partner, Israel, came at a very bad time.
It remains to be seen, if this was the right step for Israel. Short-sighted, well-meant principles can sometimes actually become stumbling blocks. Giving ground to the sort of idealogy that Erdogan clearly represents is probably not the right means to the end. On the other hand, Israel needs strong allies in the region, where things are becoming increasingly threatening. On the whole, it was probably less about giving ground to Erdogan and much more about giving ground to Obama, in order to keep from darkening the friendship with the United States. The visit by President Obama was a sign of the close friendship between the two nations, that Israel cannot afford to blemish.
Undoubtedly, politicians must find the best possible solutions for difficult circumstances. The question is whether they are being far-sighted enough with their decisions.
We can be thankful that our understanding of the Bible has given us a perspective to see far beyond the short-sightedness of the politicians of this world. Thus we know that world peace is not imminent, but rather these are the birth pangs of the end times that will herald the return of Jesus Christ. In the certain knowledge that He will return,