Thanks to President Barack Obama, Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan extorted an undeserved apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in return for promising to restore normalized diplomatic relations with Israel and dropping trumped up charges against Israeli military personnel. After exacting his pound of flesh, Erdogan then began to backtrack on both of his own promises.
Before departing Israel for Jordan on the last leg of his trip to the Middle East, President Obama arranged for Prime Minister Netanyahu to submit to Erdogan's demand to apologize for the deaths of eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American citizen resulting from Israel's interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of an anti-Israel activist flotilla attempting to break Israel's lawful naval blockade of Gaza in 2010. Israel will also be paying several millions of dollars in compensation to the victims' families.
"In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors," according to an Israeli government statement issued following the apology, "Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation."
Prime Minister Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology on behalf of the Turkish nation. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Prime Minister Netanyahu's apology, and his offer of compensation and to further ease restrictions along the Gaza border with Israel, satisfied all of Turkey's demands. Erdogan himself reportedly delivered the message that Israel had acceded to his conditions in a call to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. But Erdogan did not wait long to draw back from his reciprocal promises to restore normal diplomatic relations and put an end to the legal proceedings against the Israeli soldiers who took part in the operation to prevent the Mavi Mamara from breaking Israel's lawful naval blockade.
Just a day after receiving Netanyahu's apology, Erdogan told Turkish reporters that it was too early to talk about dropping the Mavi Marmara case against the Israeli soldiers, and that normalizing diplomatic relations would come gradually. “We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” Erdogan said.
The spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement on the day of Israel's apology last Friday stating, "The Secretary-General welcomes that Governments of Israel and Turkey have agreed to restore normal relations between them." When I asked him the following Monday whether he had any comment on Erdogan's quick backtracking from his promises, the answer was "I don't have anything further beyond the statement."
Moreover, Erdogan failed to offer any apology of his own for his recent speech at a United Nations sponsored Alliance of Civilizations conference in Vienna, where he equated Zionism with fascism and characterized Jews' quest for their own nation in their historic homeland as a "crime against humanity." In fact, he said just days before Netanyahu's apology that he stood by his remarks in Vienna, although he claimed they had been misunderstood.
What makes this forced submission to Erdogan's demands, engineered by Obama, so galling, however, is not just Erdogan's backtracking within 24 hours of receiving the apology he had demanded, or his refusal to back down from his blood libel against Zionism. Most galling is the evidence that Erdogan himself helped precipitate the Mavi Marmara episode with full knowledge that it could lead to the type of tragedy on board that ensued. The flotilla was not an innocent humanitarian mission, as the Islamists and their "useful idiot" supporters would have the world believe. Israel had proposed to transfer any humanitarian supplies into Gaza via its Mediterranean seaport of Ashdod, but was rebuffed by the Mavi Marmara crew.
The flotilla was organized, and the Mavi Marmara ship purchased, by the Turkish Islamist IHH organization which had about 40 of its operatives on the Mavi Marmara ship. While the crew and passengers of the other five ships in the flotilla cooperated peacefully with Israel's forces whom had boarded their ships and did not suffer any injuries, the IHH operatives aboard the Mavi Marmara were readying themselves for a fight.
IHH has close ties with Hamas and the Turkish government led by Erdogan, who reportedly saw the flotilla as an opportunity to goad Israel into a potentially embarrassing confrontation. If true, as appears to be the case, the evidence summarized below of the Erdogan regime's part in the Mavi Marmara episode puts the onus of the deaths aboard the blockade-running ship squarely on Erdogan's shoulders for which Erdogan, not Netanyahu, should apologize and make amends.
A 2010 report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), that relied in part on statements by Mavi Marmara passengers and computer files, stated:
According to statements from the passengers, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan maintains close contacts with IHH. The flotilla set sail with the full knowledge and agreement of Erdogan, who expressed personal interest in its success and his intention to exploit it [sic] promote his status in Turkey and the Arab-Muslim world. Passengers said that before the flotilla set sail, Prime Minister Erdogan constructed a scenario based on a possible confrontation with Israel which he could use to further his own needs. The statements were supported by descriptions found in files on laptop computers belonging to the passengers.
A journalist on board the Mavi Marmara with "good connections with the heads of the Turkish government and with Bülent Yildirim, head of IHH" was quoted by the report as saying, "The Turkish government was behind the flotilla to the Gaza Strip and its objective was to embarrass Israel: 'The Turks set a trap for you and you fell into it.' The flotilla was organized with the support of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Erdogan gave the instructions for it to set sail. That was despite the fact that everyone knew it would never reach its destination."
Additional evidence of the close links between the IHH and the Erdogan regime was found in computer files in laptops confiscated from Mavi Marmara passengers.
On board, according to the report, "the ordinary passengers were separated from the hard core of IHH operatives," whom had been permitted to board the ship in Istanbul without undergoing a security check that the other passengers had to undergo. This supports the conclusion that the Erdogan regime was easing the way for the IHH operatives to board and assume control of the ship.
The IHH operatives had a free hand to prepare for a violent confrontation with the Israeli forces once they attempted to board the ship. The IHH operatives armed themselves, the report stated, with "cold weapons which had been collected and manufactured on board the ship," including "knives, axes, tools, metal cables and metal clubs which had been sawed off the ship’s railings."
The Israeli forces who boarded the Mavi Marmara did not draw lethal weapons as they began their mission, but had to resort to using live ammunition in self defense once they realized they were in severe danger of being killed. As recounted in Briefing Number 285 published by "Beyond Images," the following is testimony from two Israeli soldiers included in the final report of the Turkel Commission, an independent Israeli panel which investigated the incident:
Israeli Soldier: “Before I managed to touch my feet on the deck, about ten people jumped onto me and began brutally beating me from every direction using clubs, metal rods and fists.... At this stage I was not armed.
....A number of attackers grabbed me by the legs and my torso and threw me over the side to the deck below, about 3.5 meters.
Upon landing on the middle deck, I fractured my arm, and a mob of dozens of people attacked me and basically lynched me – including pulling off my helmet, strangling me, sticking fingers into my eyes to gouge them out of their sockets, pulling my limbs in every direction, striking me in an extremely harsh manner with clubs and metal rods, mostly on my head. I truly felt that I was about to die, way beyond what we define as life-threatening. The behaviour of the people at this stage was definitely like fighters of an enemy which has come to kill the other side, that is, me. I felt at any moment I would take a blow to the head which would kill me.....”
Israeli Soldier: “As I reached the deck, I saw a terrorist with an iron crowbar waiting to strike me on the head, but when he tried to hit me, I pushed him, and immediately another four terrorists jumped onto me while one of them wrapped the chain around my neck and strangled me. While I am struggling with them I thought of drawing my pistol but I felt that if I drew it, because they were up against me and kicking me, I wouldn’t be able to shoot and they would grab the pistol from me. At this stage, I lost consciousness (apparently from the strangling – I saw stars) and when I awoke, I felt that I was in the air, and three/four terrorists are throwing me from the upper deck to the bridge deck. I was very heavy, and I felt a very quick and forceful fall. About 20 men were waiting for me there with poles, axes and more, and as I fell they grabbed me and dragged me inside the ship....”
In short, it would appear from the evidence that the tragic confrontation President Obama pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu into apologizing for was put into motion by the Hamas-allied Turkish Islamist IHH organization with the help of the Turkish prime minister to whom Netanyahu apologized. The IHH operatives intended to kill or seriously maim the Israeli soldiers who were attempting to carry out their mission as peacefully as had been accomplished successfully aboard the other flotilla vessels. But this would not faze Obama, our nation's apologizer-in-chief, who has no problem with delivering his own mea culpas for the United States, as he demonstrated during his trip to Turkey at the beginning of his first term.
"The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history," President Obama told the Turkish Parliament in a speech he delivered in Ankara, Turkey on April 6, 2009. "Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans... I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world -- including in my own country.""
Obama wanted to return home from his first presidential trip to Israel with a diplomatic feather in his cap. A restoration of relations between Israel and Turkey, gained by forcing Netanyahu to submit to Erdogan's extortion with an apology, seemed to be the most achievable tangible accomplishment of a trip that consisted mostly of nice-sounding speeches and ceremonies. In doing so, however, Obama played right into Erdogan's hands as the devious Turkish prime minister prepares to visit with the Hamas terrorists in Gaza next month.
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