Out of the rubble, a chance to mend relations

Aydoğan Vatandaş
Aydoğan Vatandaş


Date posted: October 31, 2011

AYDOGAN VATANDAS*, Sunday, October 30, 2011

EVEN THOUGH Turkey and Israel had great tensions after the Mavi Marmara raid last year, it was a breath of a fresh air to know that Israel was the first country to extend her hand to Turkey following last week’s devastating earthquake in Van.

The United States, Germany, Greece and Poland also offered help, as did Armenia, a country that had no diplomatic relationship with Turkey for a long time.

But Turkey was initially reluctant to accept outside offers of help.

Even though Turkey has improved its skills in dealing with earthquakes, such refusal was wrong.

As a Turkish journalist, I know how important pride is for Turkish culture and conscience. But does pride save lives and help the victims? Definitely not.

Late Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the Turkish government turned down Israel’s offer of aid. However, Israel didn’t reject Turkey’s fire-fighting planes when Israel battled a brush fire that killed 41 people last December.

Turkey’s efforts to assist Israel and Israel’s positive response to Turkey were important signs that the two countries were trying to repair their relations.

Interestingly, the Arab world didn’t criticize Turkey’s decision to send its firefighting planes to Israel last year.

Iran, Azerbaijan and Pakistan sent aid without first asking Turkey. Turkish officials said that “it wouldn’t be polite to reject the aid while it was already in the country.”

Turkey’s decision not to accept offers from the other countries initially was not appropriate in terms of Turkish traditional customs and diplomatic courtesy.

And Israel’s decision to extend a hand to Turkey immediately following the quake indicates Israel’s sincerity about its efforts to repair relations with Turkey.

After Israel’s announcement, Turkish Deputy Premier Bulent Arinc said that Turkey would not reject Israel’s humanitarian assistance.

Relations between Turkey and Israel were terribly strained following the military raid last year by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound ship that violated Israel’s shipping embargo. Israeli commandos were assaulted as they boarded the ship and the ensuing battle left nine Turkish nationals dead.

The U.N. Security Council condemned Israel and called for a prompt investigation. A United Nations report said the Israelis used excessive force by firing stun guns and smoke grenades before boarding the ship, but also raised “serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers.”

Blockade was legal

While Turkey was expecting a full apology, the report concluded that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was legal.

Afterwards, Israel’s ambassador in Ankara was ordered to leave the country and diplomatic relations were downgraded.

In response, the Netanyahu government has announced that Israel would not apologize to Turkey.

Can Turkey and Israel, the only secular democracies in the region, sustain this animosity?

They must not.

Following the attack, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey’s most influential religious leader, criticized the flotilla for trying to deliver aid without Israel’s consent. Gulen, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, said that failure to seek an agreement with Israel before attempting to deliver aid was “a sign of defying authority, and will not lead to fruitful matters.”

It is imperative to note that the Gulen Movement, which supports interfaith dialogue and has played a critical role in the social and political history of Turkey, does not support hostilities between Israel and Turkey. The movement encourages the two countries to repair their relations as soon as possible.

As Gulen said in his interview, they don’t believe that anti-Israeli sentiments are helpful for Turkey’s future.

These two great nations should work together and help their governments to repair damaged relations immediately. They must understand such strained relations degrade their capability to fight terror.

Natural disasters remind us that we are all human beings and united through compassion.

AYDOGAN VATANDAS IS AN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER AND CORRESPONDENT FOR TURKISH CIHAN NEWS AGENCY AND TODAY’S ZAMAN IN NEW YORK.

Source: Bergen Record http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/turkey_103011.html?page=all


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