President Obama’s charm offensive in Israel seems to have borne fruit with that nation’s leaders and its rightfully skeptical public.
But yesterday there was real news and the president deserves credit for helping break a diplomatic log jam that had for too long separated two former friends in the region.
The rift between Israel and Turkey dates back to a 2010 Israeli naval raid on a Turkish-registered ship attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Nine activists, most of them Turks, were killed in the raid. Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and the former allies had halted virtually all diplomatic and military cooperation.
Before leaving Israel, Obama helped arrange a call between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During that 20-minute call Netanyahu expressed regret for the loss of life aboard that ship and apologized to the Turkish people for the “operational errors” by the military that led to that loss of life. (An Israeli probe of the incident put much of the blame on Israel’s military for poor preparation of the boarding party.
So yesterday the two men announced the resumption of full diplomatic relations, including an exchange of ambassadors and a cancellation of legal action Turkey had threatened against Israeli soldiers.
A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said “the prime minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability.”