Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, an old American slogan says. By that measure the US has hardly been a real friend to Israel over the past decade. It has enabled a pattern of Israeli behaviour so reckless as to endanger Israel’s prospects of ever achieving peaceful coexistence with the states and peoples around it.
An aggressive drunk often reserves his most toxic invective for those of his friends who tell him the truth: that his behaviour is intolerable, is dangerous to himself and others, and can’t be allowed to continue.
So it should come as no surprise that the most belligerent of Israel’s leaders are shaking their fists at Turkey, most recently in last week’s adolescent stunt in which the deputy foreign minister deliberately humiliated the Turkish ambassador. The specific complaint was a negative portrayal of Israelis in a Turkish TV drama. The deeper grievance is that Turkey, a long-time friend of Israel, has started to deliver a message no longer heard from the US or most of Europe: that normal relations with Israel depend on Israel pursuing a policy of peace.
Israeli leaders fret today that Turkey has “gone over to the Islamist” camp. The truth is that Turkey is simply a close ally willing to tell harsh truths – starting with its condemnation of Israel’s disproportionate use of force in Gaza last year. The Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan pays no heed to the self-defeating restraints Washington has imposed on its own ability to engage the likes of Iran and Hamas, and is quickly emerging as the most effective potential mediator in conflicts stretching from Gaza to Afghanistan.
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