Sunday, December 26, 2010

Israeli Foreign Minister Makes Mistake of Stating the Obvious

One of the last things you want to do when conducting diplomacy is tell the unvarnished truth -- which is one of the reasons that the publication of U.S. State Department secrets was so damaging to U.S. foreign policy. The Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, recently made the mistake of stating the obvious with regard to Turkey, and caused a rift with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is trying to patch up relations between Israel and Turkey in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident. In time-honored diplomatic fashion, Netanyahu is attempting to forge a compromise whereby both sides save face.
Envoys of the two countries held rapprochement talks in Geneva this month. Israeli officials say they broached a deal that would entail them expressing “regret” for the ship violence and paying damages to those bereaved or hurt, in return for a Turkish commitment to indemnify navy personnel against lawsuits.
Basically Israel is offering a non-apology apology in return for the Turks backing off. But here's Lieberman.
“I think the matter of an apology borders on chutzpah or beyond,” Mr. Lieberman told Israeli diplomats in a speech attended international media. “If anything, we are waiting for an apology from the Turkish government, and not the other way around.” ... “If anyone should apologise, it should be the Turkish government to Israel over cooperation with terrorist elements, support for terrorism, support for the IHH, Hamas and (Lebanese) Hezbollah. There will be no (Israeli) apology,” Mr. Lieberman said.
Lieberman is correct. By rights, Turkey should apologize to Israel for assisting an attempt to break its blockade. I wrote basically the same thing when the incident occurred. But I'm not the foreign minister of Israel. Unless Israel wants to increase hostility between the two nations, some sort of compromise would be preferable. Expressing "regret" for violence is not really an apology, since you are regretting that violence occurred at all, not taking responsibility. Getting the Turks to accept such a gesture would actually be a diplomatic victory, cost nothing, and probably benefit Israel overall. Lieberman clearly lacks the diplomatic skill required for his office.

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