You can thank Obama for this. Fresh off his visits to Theodore Herzl’s tomb and Yad Vashem, he decided to broker a detente between Netanyahu and a guy who told a UN conference less than a month ago that Zionism is a crime against humanity. But it’s okay: Erdogan later walked back the charge by saying he meant Zionism is a crime against humanity only vis-a-vis Gaza.
So, obviously, it’s apology time for Bibi. Let the healing begin:
In a dramatic development that occurred just as US President Barack Obama was leaving the country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan for the first time since the Israeli prime minister took power in 2009.
Netanyahu voiced regret for the loss of life in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, apologizing for any mistakes that led to the death of nine Turkish activists. Breaking a three-year deadlock, the two agreed to normalize relations.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life, and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” the statement said.
The conversation was facilitated by US President Barack Obama, taking place during Obama’s prolonged meeting with Netanyahu on Friday afternoon.
According to Erdogan’s office, he accepted the apology and told Netanyahu that “he valued centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations.” Incidentally, the UN’s report on the 2010 flotilla raid is notable for siding mainly with Israel. There’s criticism of the IDF for using unreasonable force, but it acknowledges Israel’s right to blockade Gaza, suggests that the Turkish organizers of the flotilla had violent intentions, and notes that Israeli troops were attacked as they boarded the ship. Oh, and it also accused the Turkish government of not doing enough to convince the organizers to avoid a confrontation with the IDF. But of course, it’s incumbent upon Netanyahu to apologize to Erdogan, not vice versa.
The real significance of this, I think, is that it signals deepening worry among Syria’s neighbors about spillover from the war. Whether that’s related to the (probably apocryphal) claims of chemical weapons being used a few days ago or to some other form of escalation that the world doesn’t know about yet is unclear, but evidently Bibi and Erdogan have reached the point where containing the Syrian black hole is more important than holding old grudges. That’s more bad news for Iran, as naturally it prefers its enemies in Tel Aviv and its enemies among anti-Assad Islamists to remain divided.