Benjamin Netanyahu took to Facebook to explain his apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident. Netanyahu does have some explaining to do. As, I argued here, it is Turkey that owes Israel an apology. Moreover, even after receiving the apology, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has not agreed fully to restore diplomatic ties with Israel or to drop his case against the Israeli generals accused of being responsible for the Marmara incident.
So how did Netanyahu defend his apology? By claiming that the worsening crisis in Syria necessitated restoring relations with Turkey:
It is important that Turkey and Israel, that both border with Syria, could communicate with each other. . .Syria is crumbling, and its massive and advanced weapons arsenal is starting to fall into the hands of different factions. The biggest risk is [Syria’s] chemical weapons falling into the hands of terror organizations.
This defense smacks of pretext. Syria has been crumbling for some time. If apologizing to Turkey promoted Israel’s interests in light of the situaion in Syria, Netanyahu would have apologized months ago. He would not have done so only at the urging of President Obama.
Countries don’t lose the ability to communicate with other countries in the absence of diplomatic relations. If Israel or Turkey needs to communicate something of importance to the other, it can manage this without a restoration of official relations.
Moreover, diplomatic relations or not, is there reason to suppose that the Islamist Erdogan will communicate anything of value to Israel or act in concert with Israel’s interest in response to Israeli communications? I doubt it. Erdogan — a self-described servant of Sharia — considers Zionism a crime against humanity. Were he not committed to undermining Israel, he would not have supported the terrorists who tried to run the Gaza blockade.
It seems likely, then, that Netanyahu’s apology was about improving Israeli relations with Washington, not Ankara. I question whether it will promote this objective either, but will leave that discussion for another day.