Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Latest Israel-Turkey Row

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is being widely criticized for how he received Turkey's Ambassador to Israel, Ahmed Oguz Celikkol.

Ayalon refused to shake Celikkol's hand and made him sit on a couch that wasn't at eye level with Ayalon.

The Turkish Ambassador was summoned by Ayalon after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri yesterday in Ankara during which both men blasted Israel. Hariri accused Israel of "terrorism" and referred to it as "the enemy." Meanwhile, Erdogan criticized an IDF bombing raid that took place in Gaza on Sunday which preempted a rocket attack on Israel:

Is the Israeli government in favor of peace or not? … Gaza was bombed again yesterday. Why? … There were no rocket attacks.

But Erdogan's statement is misleading. He did not mention that Islamic Jihad has been stepping rocket attacks into Israel over the past week.

Erdogan also criticized the West for not applying the same standards to Israel that it is to Iran. "Israel has nuclear weapons, said Erdogan, "Those who are cautioning Iran must also caution Israel.” Caution Israel for what? Israel hasn't threatened to wipe any country off the map.

Now one can certainly argue that Ayalon's gesture was not diplomatic. But then again neither was Erdogan when he stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in January 2009 when Israeli President Shimon Peres defended the defensive incursion into Gaza. Erdogan shouted at Peres, "You kill people." Nearly a year later, Erdogan has never apologized for his actions. But then again why would he? He was greeted with a hero's welcome when he returned to Turkey.

Turkey has also cancelled joint military operations with Israel. Turkey is also airing a television program which depicts Israeli intelligence agents as baby snatchers.

Suffice it to say Turkey is no position to criticize Israel for lacking diplomacy.

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