The Thief, the Cook, his Wife and her Lover: the Turkish-Israeli Coproduction

 

An unusual commercial was aired on Israeli TV a few days ago.  The Turkish construction firm Yilmazlar ? involved with infrastructure projects in Israel ? ran ads that represented it as “building bridges between the two peoples”.  Its timing could not have been better.  Yesterday on Israel Channel 1, the quasi-official venue of the government, the commentator could not bring himself to say that the Prime Minister ‘apologized’ so he stuck to the earlier version, saying he “expressed sorrow”.  But as the headlines in the New York Times and BBC kept explaining that Israel formally apologized to Turkey and promised to pay compensation for the Marmara’s victims’ families, the local newspapers were more accurate on the details. On his Hebrew Facebook page PM Nethanyahu explained that the Syrian crisis motivated him. He received the blessing of the Israeli Army which had been pushing for this move for a while now, worried about legal actions against officers (now removed as part of the deal) and more broadly about the heavy strategic costs this crisis incurred.

Apart from some expected moans and groans about lost honor, the public seemed to embrace this American-brokered Sulcha with a sigh of relief.  Now the question on everybody’s mind is whether Israelis would soon enough flock again to the shores of Antalya and the shops of Istanbul.  Over the past three years Turkey, a country that for a long time had been second to none as a beloved holiday retreat, was actively redesigned as an evil place.  Many Israelis abstained from travel to Turkey, expressing genuine fears that once you revealed your national identity over there, the average Turk would literally be at your throat, and on the rare occasion that he won?t, then at least he would notify the nearest branch of El Qaeda, who will.

Was it a guilty conscience that was speaking through this fear? I doubt it. Islamophobia is more likely, nicely cuddled with the age-old sense that “the world is against us”.  So while commentators in the press hotly debate whether it was Erdogan “who climbed down the tree” or, to the contrary, Nethanyahu, the question that really hovers above is whether political normalization would yield a social, or perhaps more accurately, consumerist one; whether rather than Yilmazlar, it would be Onur Air or the Lara Beach Hotel & Spa Resort that would soon buy commercial airtime on this side of the Mediterranean.

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