Obama: 'Apologize to Turkey or else'On Wednesday, I reported that the Netanyahu government had decided that it would not apologize to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident. There were two different versions of the story. One, linked in the post above, claimed that Secretary of State Clinton had demanded that Israel apologize to Turkey, and that Israel had refused. The second version portrayed Clinton as having requested or suggested that Israel apologize, but not as having demanded it. That distinction is important for reasons I will discuss below.
Now, there is an unambiguous version that claims that President Obama has threatened Israel that it must apologize to Turkey 'or else.' The 'or else' is that the Obama administration will 'find it difficult' to recruit opposition to the 'Palestinians' unilateral declaration of 'statehood.' It should be pointed out that the Obama administration has yet to say unequivocally that it will veto the 'Palestinian' resolution in the Security Council, although everyone assumes this will be the case.
The report claims to be based on a Yediot Aharonot (Hebrew side of YNet) report. I cannot find that report.
Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported on Wednesday that the Obama Administration is threatening Israel to either apologize to Turkey over its bloody interception of a Gaza aid flotilla last year, or risk strained ties with Washington.Israel Radio reported at 10:30 am on Thursday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that an apology to Turkey would be an admission of guilt. Haaretz's Editor in Chief, Aluf Benn, tweeted the following on Thursday morning (via Blake Hounshell).
Israeli diplomats in Washington told the newspaper that they had received a communique from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisting that the rift between Israel and Turkey was harming American interests in the region, such as affecting regime change in neighboring Syria.
A year ago, Obama actually pressured Erdogan to either make up with Israel, or risk his ability to purchase American weapons. But, like other Middle East powers embroiled in conflict with Israel, Erdogan had learned that Western threats are fleeting and toothless. Obama never followed through on that ultimatum, and all Erdogan had to do was wait one year for Washington to decide to start pressuring Israel, instead.
What's worse, the Obama Administration's pressure on Israel - the party it agrees is in the right - has also reportedly come in the form of a threat.
According to the Israeli diplomats cited in the Yediot report, they were told that if Israel does not comply with Clinton's request to apologize to Turkey, the White House may suddenly find itself unable to continue building opposition to a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood at the UN next month.
"God forbid we apologize," declared Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a conference of Likud activists on Tuesday.
Demonstrating a firm understanding of Israel's regional antagonists, Ya'alon, a former IDF chief, noted that Erdogan "will never let go, even after we apologize."
Turkey's demand for Israeli apology is not about manners, but about who's the stronger regional power and who's the vassal state.Very true. And yet another reason why the Obama administration should not be mixing in.
There are four points I want to make here. First, notice how an Israeli apology to Turkey has suddenly become a 'vital American interest.' Where have we heard that before? The truth is that whether Israel apologizes to Turkey will have very little effect on the US but a potentially great impact on Israel.
Second, it is important that Israel not appear to be 'defying' the United States, because one of its arguments against the unilateral declaration of a 'Palestinian state' is that the 'Palestinians' are defying the will of the United States (and the 'international community' - or at least the quartet) by declaring a 'state' unilaterally rather than returning to the conference table.
Third, note how the Obama administration is trying to hang the use of the veto at the UN next month over Israel's head like a sword of Damocles. This is where the American people come in. Every one of you who is in the US should be contacting your Senators and Representatives and urging them to pressure the Obama administration to come clean, announce that they are going to veto the resolution and stop playing games. This is quite reminiscent of the veto that was cast in February, where no one was sure until the last minute that the US would actually veto a virulently anti-Israel resolution, and Lazy Susan Rice made a rare UN appearance to castigate Israel after casting the veto.
Fourth, note how the Obama administration is mixing in an American interest that is unrelated - regime change in Syria (So do they now admit that's an American interest? If so, why have they not even called for Assad to step down?) - and trying to blame Israel for it not happening. The Obama administration has used this despicable tactic before as well.
The sum total of American Middle East diplomacy is to bully Israel. George Bush was not perfect but he never would have done anything as low as this. A second Obama term (God forbid) could devastate Israel.