It started with fiction.
Back in October 2009, a fictitious Turkish TV series depicted Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians. Later, another fictional TV series in Turkey showed Israelis kidnapping babies to convert them to Judaism.
As Jews well know, fictitious stories matter. This is especially true if the stories are insidious, popular, and repeated.
With good reason, Mr Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, for a discussion. What happened next will haunt Israelis for a long time.
In front of cameras, Mr Ayalon humiliated the Turkish ambassador. Ayalon explained to journalists that Celikkol was seated on a low sofa in front of a table without a Turkish flag.
Nothing motivates someone to harm you more than humiliation, except perhaps, public humiliation.
And from there, even as Israel and Turkey continued trade deals worth $2.5b in 2009, things got worse. Much worse. Turkey facilitated the organization of a flotilla to break the Gaza blockade.
Irrespective of the merits of the blockade, Israel’s attempts to stop the flotillas can only be characterized as a disaster. By killing activists, Israel drew international condemnation and played the part every anti-Israel organization had hoped it would.
And now, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has demanded an apology. In fact, he has even threaten that Turkey will cut ties with Israel if it does not apologize.
With characteristic bravado, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has declared that “We have no intention of apologizing. In fact, we think it should be the other way around.”
And perhaps Lieberman is right. Turkey’s actions have been provocative. Turkey could have stopped airing inflammatory TV. And an apology for the shows that did air would have been productive. Further, Turkey could have worked with Israel on ways to help Palestinians directly rather than facilitate a flotilla that senior Turkish officials could have predicted might end with violence. And, of course, Turkey could foster closer ties with Israel without the use of threats.
But focus for a moment not on what Turkey should do, but on what Israel should do.
First, start with principles. What are Israeli leaders trying to accomplish? These goals might include key ideas like: guaranteeing the security of Israelis, pursuing peace, guaranteeing prosperity, valuing life. Much further down the list would be pride and pursuing petty rivalries.
In pursuit of safety, peace and prosperity, what should Israel do?
Consider what an apology can do. At its core, an apology communicates the idea that the intentions of our actions were different from the outcome. An apology does not require accepting full responsibility for an outcome. Did Israel intend to kill activists when they boarded the flotilla? Does Israel regret the outcome? If so, consider the following:
Dear Ahmet Davutoglu,
I am sorry. In Israel, as in Turkey, we view life as sacred. We deeply regret the lives that were lost in our attempt to board the flotilla from Turkey.
We were surprised by the violent reaction our men received when they boarded the boats. Our men felt that their lives were threatened when they were beaten, stabbed, and thrown overboard by the activists.
And though we believe that our soldiers acted in self-defense, it is with great sadness that our men took the lives of activists. We wish the outcome had been different and that no lives had been lost.
We have deep respect for the people of Turkey and we greatly value our relationship. We are sorry that the relationship between Israel and Turkey has frayed, and we are committed to repairing this relationship.
We believe that mistakes have been made on both sides, and we want to work with you to learn from the mistakes we have made and to build bridges for the future.
With wishes for peace,