The apparent center of gravity in the current degradation of relations between Turkey and Israel is the failure of the latter to offer an acceptable, formal apology for the nine deaths which occurred at the hands of IDF personnel during the encounter between Israel and the utterly bogus "relief" flotilla headed by the Mavi Marmora. The Palmer Report concluded that while Israel had international law and custom on its side as regarded the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, the enforcement of the blockade as well as the resultant deaths constituted an egregious act of overreach.
The incident on board the ship handed anti-Israeli elements, including the Islamist leaning AKP government of Turkey a heaven sent opportunity to make much propaganda at the expense of the Jewish state. In this context the Turks have demanded repeatedly that Israel not only provide compensation for those wounded and killed by IDF members but also provide an acceptable apology. Israel has agreed to compensation but has balked over the idea of an apology. Prime minister Netanyahu has maintained that doing so would damage Israeli public morale among other sinister things. In this he has been backed (or exceeded) by the always ready to breath fire foreign minister, Lieberman. The far right of the Israeli political spectrum has been monolithic in the rejectionist stance adopted by Netanyahu.
It seems that the Netanyahu government believes that an apology for an action seen as being defensive in nature and not overdone in view of the provocations offered by activists on board the Mavi Marmora who were armed with bludgeons and similar weapons would somehow lessen Israel in the eyes of its citizens and the world generally. This is an utterly specious notion.
The first reason for declaring the Netanyahu stance specious is simply that the raid was poorly conceived and even more poorly executed. It seems preposterously arrogant that the raid's planners and commanders did not anticipate any armed resistance to the IDF boarding party. Did these experienced military officers really, really believe the activists sponsored by a group with a long record of hostility to Israel would not seek a confrontation? Or, were they of the view that the simple arrival of the dreaded IDF would cause an instant collapse of will on the part of the activists? Either flies in the face of both experience and realistic military planning.
To put it bluntly, the boarding was as badly botched as, for example, the special operations force attempt in Somalia twenty years back which resulted in Blackhawk down. The IDF blew it pure and simple when they mounted the assault. This is not a mark against the troops who fast roped down to decks filled with men ready and eager for a violent confrontation, men who were willing to court and accept death at the hands of the IDF, men willing to be martyrs for the faith and the cause.
Apologizing for your own side's errors is no shame--only a transient embarrassment for those in charge. Admitting that better thinking, better planning, better timing, better methods and tactics would have resulted in a death free takeover of the ship is no sin, no humiliation, but rather an expression of a willingness and capacity to learn from mistakes.
The second reason the Netanyahu posture is specious not to say vacuous is simply that great nations can and do apologize. By this the Geek does not mean the bogus exercises of mea culpa engaged in by President Obama for American "transgressions" both real and imagined but in all cases resident in the far distant past. No, the Geek means such examples as that provided by General Stanley McChrystal, sitting, legs crossed, feet bootless, on the rug covered floor of an Afghan stone hut apologizing for fatalities inflicted by forces under his command upon civilians, upon members of the family in whose house he sat.
The humble, human gesture of offering apologies for lives cut short in no way humiliated the general, nor the forces in his command, nor the nation in whose service he and his people fought. Rather, it demonstrated that a great and powerful country disposing military force of nearly unlimited power could admit it did inadvertent wrong, wreaked unintended havoc and death--and, most importantly, could acknowledge and apologize for it.
Unlike General McChrystal, there will be no need for Mr Netanyahu to face the kin of those who died at the hands of the IDF. Mr Netanyhu will not have to take off his shoes, sit on the floor, and personally say, "I am truly sorry for the deaths my men caused and the pain inflicted upon you by our actions. Mr Netanahu can do the job by written words, words carefully crafted by diplomats and vetted by politicians, words which can be totally insincere provided they do not read as such. It can be an antiseptic charade without any requirement for the direct person-to-person dynamic which involved McChrystal.
True, the Turks will crow over an apology. The Erdogan government will distort it, use it to advance Turkey's status in its ambitious plan of a neo-Ottoman Empire. That will be to the shame of Ankara not Israel. And, it is debatable that the resultant propaganda will be any more destructive of Israel's interests than is the ongoing festering crisis of diplomacy and trade.
Best of all, the issuance of an apology puts the ball back in the Turk's court. The apology would place the onus on Ankara to put up or shut up, to restore the status quo ante or admit the whole issue was false, a gambit intended to put Israel on the unending defensive, a way to back out of the previous policy of cooperation between the two countries. This manner of clarification is in Israel's interest, is it not?
Get a grip, Mr Netanyahu! An apology is in your interests. It is in the better interests of your country. Offering one will not diminish Israel; it will buff the country's image and status around the world and in the US. It will not even bruise your ego. It might even enhance your sense of self. It will have been you who called the Erdogan bluff.