The National (Editorial)
January 14, 2010 - 1:00am

If the Turkish ambassador to Israel was surprised by his humiliation at the hands of Danny Ayalon, he should not have been. This is what the deputy Israeli foreign minister considers his job. He is no suave advocate for Israel, like the media spokesman Mark Regev. He takes his cue instead from his boss, Avigdor Lieberman, engaging in diplomacy with all the tact that might be expected of a Moldovan nightclub bouncer.

As a former ambassador to the US, a key position in Israel, Mr Ayalon’s decision to join Mr Lieberman’s political party last year was controversial. He explained the choice by saying: “I could have joined a wishy-washy party, but I have been politically correct enough in my life.” Apparently not. In his formal apology to Turkey he promised to behave: “In the future, I will clarify my position in diplomatically acceptable ways.”

It is unclear how that would have been possible in this case. Mr Ayalon’s protest related to the behaviour of Mossad agents as depicted in an episode of the Turkish TV series Valley of the Wolves. Dressing down a foreign diplomat over the content of a TV show is neither a mature nor an appropriate response, no matter how it is phrased. It is of even greater concern that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not object to the protest itself, merely to the manner in which it was conveyed. Valley of the Wolves is a fictional drama, not a documentary. It is as if the British were to complain to Washington about the amorality of James Bond, or the French about the intellectual failings of Inspector Clouseau.

While the dispute is ridiculous, the implications could not be more serious. Turkey is a vital ally of Israel. It was one of the first Muslim nations to give Israel diplomatic recognition. It is a strong military ally, and an increasingly important trade partner. Israel believes that the moderate Islamist Justice and Equality party (AKP) is to blame for the cooling relations. The facts do not support this. Bilateral trade has more than doubled under the AKP, and Turkey remains a major purchaser of Israeli goods. It is only Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and especially the Gazan conflict, that has drawn Ankara’s ire. Israel should take note.

While Israel may see itself as a victim of increasing anti-Semitic rhetoric, it is rather its own arrogance that is to blame.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017