Israeli-Turkish relations suffered yet another blow on Monday. Turkey continues make threats while some of us are wringing our hands in regret over the apology that never happened. No need to worry. An Israeli apology would have merely postponed the summoning of Ella Afek, deputy to the Israeli ambassador in Turkey, who was told Monday that all Israeli diplomats ranked above second secretary must leave the country. As I first said on Sunday, Turkey does not want to reconcile. It wants to humiliate us. There are a few Israeli citizens who landed in Istanbul Monday who can testify to that fact.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, can take credit for the deteriorating ties between our countries. Erdogan has destabilized relations with Israel by employing the same skill he used to rehabilitate Turkey's economy. At least he's consistent.
“I don't see any difference between Israel and a terrorist organization,” Erdogan has been quoted as saying. He didn't say this in the presence of President Shimon Peres at Davos in 2009, the venue where he launched his unrestrained campaign of vilification against Israel. He said it in May 2004, as a freshly elected prime minister voicing harsh criticism of Israel Defence Forces actions in Rafah. Erdogan actually understands a thing or two about terrorism. He is so well-versed, in fact, that he knows the difference between the Kurdish rebel PKK organization, which has to be crushed, and Hamas, which deserves to be defended.
Those who believe Israel should have apologized even if it meant a risk to ourselves need to be reminded that there is such a thing as national honor. In the Middle East, this notion carries particular weight.
Those who called for an Israeli apology are apparently misreading the regional map. What can we do? We are not living in good times. We've gone from Ben Gurion's alliance of the periphery -- a strategy of forming alliances with countries on the periphery of the Arab world, like Turkey and Iran -- to an alliance of bullies. Two historical superpowers, Persia and the Ottoman Empire (Iran and Turkey) have decided in recent years to flex their muscles at our expense.
Both countries combine religion (extremist Shiites for one, Sunnis for the other) with nostalgia for their empires. Both have aspirations to once again stand at the Arab world's helm. Both have decided to postpone, for the time being, conflict with each other. Israel even provides them with an excuse to flirt with each other. What would the countries in the region ever do without us?
There was a time when the Turks controlled vast expanses of land and sea. They had their Sublime Porte, which was the name used by the central government when it engaged in diplomacy.
Erdogan should be reminded that in the days of the sultan the foreign ministry employed Jewish diplomats who knew how to speak European languages. While the sultan was so sure of himself that he felt no need to learn about other cultures, Europeans were studying Orientalism. It's a pity that Erdogan has chosen to move forward by looking back. It's also a pity that when Europe shuts out Turkey, it is Israel that pays the price.