Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Not all pleasant in Promised Land


Our flight returning from Europe occurred with the news of a multiple terror attack on the Istanbul airport, which has so far produced more than 40 deaths and 260 injuries. No organization has claimed credit, but the betting is on the Islamic State, or maybe Assad. Turkey has acquired numerous enemies domestic and foreign, including its Kurds and those living elsewhere. Experts on the subject are saying that this was not the style of the Kurds.

Turkish Airlines has come into its own with lots of connections, good service, and pursuing a larger market share with relatively low prices. Israelis and others use it for connections to the US and a number of other places. We were thinking of it as an option for our next trip, but now most likely not. Turkey has come in for more than its share of attacks and casualties, including numerous tourists.

There is no indication that the issues were linked, but the attack came while Israeli politicians were considering the approval of an agreement to return to normal relations with Turkey. The rupture came in the context of Turkey’s political move toward Islam, and IDF’s action against a ship that left Turkey intent on penetrating the blockade of Gaza. Several Turks and others were killed while resisting a boarding party, and that became the central focus of several years of negotiations.

Government ministers to the right of Bibi sided with those opposing paying any compensation to those killed, but some such payment has seemed inevitable as the price of an agreement. Also in the cards is considerable economic activity between Israel and Turkey, with the prospect that Turkey may become a way station for the transmission of Mediterranean gas from Israeli fields to Europe.

Also in the air have been demands from two families whose young men were killed in the 2014 operation against Gaza, whose bodies are likely held by Hamas or some other Gazan militia. The families have opposed any agreement with Turkey, which does not include the “return of their boys.” Also active is the family of an Israeli Ethiopian, apparently handicapped emotionally and/or mentally, who wandered into Gaza.

Involved in all these demands are how much Israel should pay for the return of bodies, or for the return of a civilian who entered Gaza of his own, perhaps limited, initiative.

Israel has paid dearly for the return of soldiers, civilians, and soldiers’ bodies, in the form of releasing substantial numbers of terrorists convicted of murder. Some of those released have returned to a life of Islamic terror, with more Israeli deaths as a result.

So against the considerable support that families can generate to pressure the government into paying what is necessary, there has become a substantial counter cluster of individuals who oppose paying anything in the currency demanded by Hamas and its friends, i.e., the release of their people captured while on previous missions of terror.

Israel also holds the bodies of Palestinian terrorists, but their return has never been prominent in the demands made.

There is also a problem in thinking that an agreement with Turkey can be fashioned in a way to force something from Hamas or another Gazan militia. Current realities, including the most recent attack on the Istanbul Airport, indicate that intra-Muslim warfare is more prominent than any capacity of one Islamic regime to bring along another in a mutual pact with Israel.

Israel’s media has provided coverage of family demands, including their accusations that Prime Minister Netanyahu deceived them with promises of insisting on return of their sons. The families have emotions on their side, wanting a grave that they can visit, and a sense of bringing a son or brother home. 

Three ministers voted against the agreement with Turkey in the cabinet forum with responsibility for such matters, but seven voted to accept the agreement. One of those voting with the Prime Minister committed himself to working assiduously for the return of the man being held, as well as the bodies of Israeli soldiers. 

Such expressions may not be worth much. Each of us--along with those elsewhere who identify with Israel and its issues--will be left to ponder how much, if anything, should the country pay for the return of bodies or body parts, when the price demanded is sure to be the release of terrorists, some of whom are likely to kill again.

Comments welcome.



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