This has to be one of the more bitter ironies of today’s news: Shaul Mofaz, a senior Israeli Knesset leader, was invited by NATO to address an international security conference in Istanbul. He was to make a pointed appeal for relieving tensions between Turkey and Israel. He was to offer soft words and encouragement designed to create a more positive atmosphere between the two feuding nations. Everything was prepared for his trip. The speech was being written and vetted.
Then Israel intelligence weighed in. They’d need a score of bodyguards, armored vehicles, hotel rooms, food. The cost for security alone escalated to $25,000 (which seems a paltry sum to me). Official Israel began to have second thoughts. Just how important was this event and Mofaz’s speech? In the end, the speech and trip were cancelled (Hebrew, with shorter English version here) and yet another opportunity to soothe the waters was lost. As Abbas Eban used to say in a far different context: never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace.
Ironic isn’t it, that a gesture meant to bring peace between the parties was torpedoed by the very hostility it was seeking to soothe? Mofaz couldn’t go to Ankara for fear the very enmities Israel aroused inside Turkey with its Gaza war and Mavi Marmara assault, would endanger him. That’s of course leaving aside the looming fear that a Turkish prosecutor could submit arrest warrants for Israeli leaders who perpetrated the flotilla massacre, though that doesn’t appear to have played any role in this matter.
Israel, through it heedlessness to the sensitivities to its neighbors, through it narrow focus on short term gain, has lost site of its long-term interests and lost the ability to create new opportunities for peace and reconciliation even if it wanted to do so. This is the tragedy of Israel’s current regional predicament.