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Israel's Diplomatic Debacle & Mossad Success

Defense Minister Ehud Barak To Examine If Turkey Is Willing To Put Ayalon Affair In the Past & Treat Israel More Respectfully

IsraCast Assessment: Egypt Ignores Foreign Minister Lieberman But Maintains Close Relations With Netanyahu Government - Possible Precedent For Turkey?

Al-Aharam: 'If Not For Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, Iran Would Have Acquired Nuclear Weapons Years Ago!'

 Defense Minister Ehud's Barak's official visit to Turkey has been saved by the eleventh hour apology of Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Barak will be able to examine what can be salvaged from the relations after Ayalon tried to humiliate Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol while delivering a protest over Turkey's verbal attacks on Israel and the screening of anti- Semitic programs on Turkish TV. The Barak visit will now have added importance at a time that relations between Jerusalem and Ankara have hit an all time low. On the other hand, none other than the Egyptian newspaper Al-Aharam credits Mossad chief Meir Dagan with stalling Iran's nuclear weapons project.

 Recently, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman summoned Israeli ambassadors and consuls from around the world to Jerusalem - he instructed the senior diplomats, in no uncertain terms, to cease their 'apologetic' approach in presenting Israel's battle for survival. The diplomats were ordered to go on the offensive in confronting the diplomatic warfare now being waged against the Jewish state, not only in international forums such as the UN, but also frequently in the international media. Lieberman did have a case; Israel is more often than not held accountable to a stricter double standard than, for example the U.S., Britain and the all the other democratic NATO members, when one considers such arenas as Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. (And of course, Russia in Chechnya or China in Tibet get a free pass altogether). Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon then proceeded to demonstrate how it's done. Muslim Turkey, once one of Israel's closest allies where Israeli pilots once used Turkish Air Force bases for training, has recently shifted its foreign policy goals.

In the assessment of Dr Uzi Rabi, an Israeli expert: 'Turkey knocked on the door of the European Union for years, but that door has not opened'. Now Turkey has realigned its foreign policy toward the Muslim and Arab world - Israel is paying the price. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who started out as an interlocutor between Israel and Syria, has repeatedly castigated the Jewish state for nearly everything that has gone wrong in the Middle East. (Channel One Commentator Oded Granot cracked that any moment look for Erdogan to bring up 'The Jews also killed Jesus!' The Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan, a devout Muslim, whose Justice & Development party ruling party is Islamic in nature, escalated his rhetoric in a fierce confrontation with Israel's President Shimon Peres, a year ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Erdogan stalked out after Peres rose to the occasion and responded to the Turk's diatribe by retorting: 'What would you do if Istanbul were being hit by thousands of rockets!'

Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Since then it's been nearly all downhill although Infrastructure Minister 'Fuad' Ben Eliezer was officially invited to Istanbul recently and returned home describing it as both 'successful and cordial'. However, his optimism was short lived. Israel's close strategic ties with Turkey appear to have ended; Turkey recently scratched Israel from planned military maneuvers with the U.S., but to the Turks' chagrin, the U.S. then refused to participate. Nonetheless, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is about to make an official visit to Turkey, a trip that would have been canceled, if Israel's Foreign Ministry had not issued the official apology demanded by Turkey. But the fact is that in diplomatic etiquette Ayalon's attempt at humiliating Turkey's Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol falls under the aegis 'IT'S NOT DONE!' Diplomats, as representatives and the symbol of a foreign country are always to be treated by the host countries with the utmost respect regardless of the current state of relations.

It had also been an incontrovertible tenet of Israeli diplomacy. In one fell swoop, Ayalon a career diplomat had thrown all his discretion to the wind and had succeeded, incredibly, in turning the tables against Israel - instead of pressing her case against the unjust invective of Istanbul, Ayalon had switched the diplomatic spotlight on his egregious handling of the Turkish ambassador. ( If any of the young cadets in the Israel Foreign |Ministry's training course had proposed an Ayalon - type solution in a case study, the deputy foreign minister would himself probably have kicked him/her out as unsuitable. The only positive thing is perhaps the current Turkish debacle can be used as a case study on how not to conduct Israel's foreign relations).

Nevertheless, why did Ayalon set himself up for all the flak he is now taking. At first it was widely held in Israel that Lieberman, the boss, instructed /ordered his deputy to publicly humiliate the Turkish ambassador Celikkol - in line with the view 'that's the lingua franca in the Middle East'. Alas! The Turks responded with diplomatic professionalism, summoned the Israeli ambassador and demanded an official Israeli apology, which they eventually received to Israel's ignominy.

Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Amit Shabi)

In a recent report, IsraCast raised the issue of how unsuitable appointments, for political purposes to high government office, can lead to reckless results. As a party leader and MK, Lieberman had sparked a diplomatic uproar when he declared in a Knesset debate that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak 'could go to Hell' for refusing to ever officially visit Israel. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Netanyahu later appointed Lieberman as foreign minister in order to gain his coalition support. Undoubtedly, Lieberman notorious for his undiplomatic ways, is the least suitable politician to serve as Israel's #1 diplomat. It recalls former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's agreeing to let Labor party leader Amir Peretz, the former trade union boss, take over as defense minister. Political reporter Ayala Hasson of Channel One TV has said although Ayalon was obviously spurred on by Lieberman's more assertive approach for Israeli diplomats, the Foreign Minister did not tell Ayalon to try and humiliate the Turkish ambassador - he was only to lodge a stern protest. The deputy then went overboard apparently believing his actions were in line with the wishes of his minister. If so, this raises serious doubts about Ayalon's judgment and diplomatic skills. This is one version - there is another.

Ayalon served as Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ambassador to Washington and a career diplomat does not reach that level without being very smart. Therefore, he must have known that humiliating a foreign ambassador is a 'no-no' in diplomacy and one that would backfire and yet he did not, probably out of fear of his boss, refuse to carry out an instruction, that would so obviously harm Israel's national interest. But Ayalon was not alone in his timorousness to face Lieberman; even Prime Minister Netanyahu did not criticize publicly the fiasco, due to his concern that if Lieberman were angered he might bolt the coalition. When Turkey's deadline running out, President Peres provided the 'ladder for the climdown' by his telephone call to Bibi suggesting that things with Turkey had deteriorated far enough and must be rectified. This enabled the Prime Minister to approach Lieberman with a request that 'for Shimon's sake', Ayalon should issue an apology and promise not to do it again.

The Turkey dossier could have and should have been handled differently. Cabinet Minister Ben Eliezer lambasted Ayalon's behavior calling it 'harmful and superfluous' in spite of Turkey's unfair bashing of the Jewish state. Ben Eliezer exclaimed:'What do we want to do arouse the entire Muslim world against us!' The cabinet minister was contacted by Israel Radio at the head of a working delegation to India, a country that has been steadily expanding its relations with Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as did the other cabinet members steered clear of commenting on the diplomatic disaster. Barak side-stepped the question by saying that it was not his job to give marks to the foreign ministry. Even Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, appeared cognizant of the deteriorating situation and preferred not to viewed as siding with the Turks by criticizing the government; but after Istanbul accepted Israel's apology, the opposition can be expected to follow the Israeli media in hauling Lieberman, Ayalon and Netanyahu over the coals. It will be up to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to examine what can be built on the burning bridges between Jerusalem and Ankara.

What is so exasperating about the ill-considered affair is that Israel is far 'more sinned against than sinning'. And the question remains - how should Israel react to the unbridled verbal attacks from Turkey, a country notorious for its brutal suppression of its Kurdish minority that has been fighting for autonomy. Could Israel not make quiet diplomatic use of one sort or another of this and other issues? For example, the fact that in recent years Israeli governments, out of consideration for its relations with Turkey, rejected international appeals from various quarters to recognize the Turkish massacre of an estimated one and half million Armenians during World War I . The Armenians view it as their Holocaust. And when it comes to the use of force, what of the Turks' invasion of Northern Cyprus where they still remain since 1974. This is in violation of the UN Charter and repeated Security Council resolutions although Istanbul contended they were sent to protect Turkish Cypriots from their Greek counterparts. Moreover, the Turks then proceeded illegally to set up an illegal breakaway state resulting in the expulsion of an estimated 250,000 Greek Cypriot refugees from the North. In addition, 120,000 Turkish settlers were then brought in from Turkey. For the record, all but five of the 500 Greek orthodox churches were either desecrated or destroyed during the Turkish invasion. This is the record of the country that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had to apologize to this week.

So, Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry, under the stewardship of Avigdor Lieberman, has chalked up another key Middle East state with which it nearly severed diplomatic relations. But strangely enough, the Prime Minister's relations with Egypt seem to be thriving - Netanyahu and other cabinet ministers have been invited to Cairo and the Egyptians are, for the first time, really cracking down on the Hamas arms smuggling into Gaza. In effect, the Egyptians perceived Lieberman as a 'loose cannon on deck', and agreed to bypass the Lieberman Foreign Ministry. The Egyptian case could set a precedent for Turkey as well, if Defense Minister Barak finds the Turks are ready to put the Ayalon affair behind them and also treat Israel more respectfully than they have recently.

Al-Aharam: ' If Not For Mossad's Meir Dagan, Iran Would Have Acquired Nuclear Weapons Years Ago!'

The leading Egyptian newspaper Al-Aharam has credited Meir Dagan, the chief of Israel's Mossad secret service, with delivering 'painful blows' that have stalled Iran's nuclear weapons project for the past eight years. The paper concludes: 'If not for Dagan, Iran would have acquired nuclear weapons years ago!' The article adds that the Iranians know the Mossad was behind the assassination of nuclear scientist Prof. Massaoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran on Jan 12th. The Mossad was also said to have played a key role in the demonstrations against the regime since the recent Iranian election. Dubbing Dagan 'Superman of the Jewish state', Al Aharam added that no one could have imagined that the Mossad chief could not only have delayed the Iranian nuclear project but to have also downgraded the military capabilities of the Syrian army, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. All the while, Dagan has worked in the shadows shunning media publicity. According to Al- Aharam, the Mossad has been involved in many 'daring operations' in the Middle East such as the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, the bombing of a secret Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, and an air strike on a clandestine arms convoy in Sudan that was on its way from Iran to Gaza last year. Egypt is a bitter rival of Iran and last year the Egyptian secret service uncovered an Iranian backed subversive network operating inside the country.

David Essing

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