Turkey's decision to issue arrest warrants and indictments against Israel Defense Forces officers who conducted the raid against the Mavi Marmara ship to prevent it from breaching the naval blockade of Gaza hit Jerusalem like thunder on a sunny day.
Almost two years have passed since the difficult events on the deck of that ship, which refused to stop. Now, out of the blue, appears a threat against former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former Navy chief Vice Adm. (ret.) Eliezer Marom and former Israel Air Force Intelligence chief Avishai Levy. If they ever step foot in Turkey, they could be arrested and tried. The prosecution would demand 10 life terms for each of them.
This moves comes as Israel and Turkey hold behind-the-scenes meetings to extricate the countries from the diplomatic burden created by the Gaza flotilla. It seemed as though the anger was beginning to subside, the wound was healing, and that Israeli tourists would even start returning to Istanbul and Turkish beaches this summer. But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn't interested in restoring relations to their proper course. If he were inclined to do so, it stands to reason he would not have made such a decision, which is historical and political in nature, not legal.
Indeed, seeking justice and abstaining from violence aren't exactly the Ottomans' strong suit, as the Armenians and Kurds, past and present, can attest.
According to Turkish reports, the indictment even refers to historical details, such as the Turkish treatment of Jews in the 15th century. If such a farcical clause actually exists in the indictment, we can conjure up our mythological sister from the 16th century, Dona Gracia, who could tell the judges just how much the Ottoman Empire benefited economically from its ties with her.
Erdogan essentially made this decision based on two current and fundamental diplomatic considerations: He sees and longs for Iran's position as the Middle Eastern power that is single-handedly opposing the democratic West while appropriating the role of representing Islam and the Arab world. As is customary in anti-Semitic places, in the East and West alike, fanning the flames against relations with the Jews is always useful for leaders like Erdogan. This approach has succeeded for him in the recent past and now he is reigniting the conflict. Ashkenazi and his colleagues are paying the price for Turkish-Iranian competition over hegemony in the region.
Moreover, ever since Erdogan stopped lashing out at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who did not heed his threats and didn't fall from power, Erdogan has felt insignificant and wants renewed attention from the international community.
Erdogan has become an enemy to compromise and calm in the Middle East, certainly when it comes to anything related to Israel. A month ago Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wildly protested against Israeli participation in a NATO exercise.
Every Turkish move in public, as opposed to the sweet-talk occasionally heard in private conversations, points to nothing but bad intentions.
Israel must always hope that relations improve with its neighbor, which until recently was an ally. But it must know that this won't happen as long as Erdogan is prime minister. You can't make a horse drink water. Under these circumstances, it's not even worth the effort to lead it to the trough.