A Low Sofa for Erdogan

Erdogan has accused Israel of war crimes, walked out on its president, and backed Israel’s sworn enemies. So Israel hazed his ambassador a bit by giving him a cheap seat. Shocking!

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians.

We sat his ambassador to Tel Aviv down on a low sofa. Ohmigosh!

Erdogan launched into an ugly public tirade against Israel and accused – to his face — the esteemed President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, of barbarianism. Then, before the television cameras of the world, he offensively stalked off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In front of television cameras, we sat Erdogan’s ambassador to Tel Aviv down on a low sofa and failed to smile at him. Outrageous!

While most Middle East leaders privately, and in some cases even publicly, supported Israel during Operation Cast Lead, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey (and his buddy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) sought to intervene on Ismail Haniye’s behalf. Erdogan actively backed our sworn enemy in a war against us.

Israeli stalwart deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon received Erdogan’s ambassador in the Knesset, but sat him down on a low sofa. How terribly insulting!

Erdogan abruptly and demonstratively canceled Israel’s participation in the multinational “Anatolian Eagle” air exercise in Turkey last October, and has acted to cool and curtail the important Israel-Turkey military and strategic relationship.

Ayalon sat Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol down on a low sofa, without a Turkish flag on the table before him. Shocking!

In 2008, Turkey welcomed the irredentist president of the Islamic Republic of Iran for a formal visit. No Western country has ever issued such an invitation to the Iranian leader. After Ahmadinejad rigged the June 2009 Iranian vote, Erdogan hurried to congratulate the Iranian dictator on his “re-election,” while the rest of the world demanded that the election be investigated.

We sought to demonstrate the depths of our disgust with Erdogan’s stumpy behavior by sitting his representative down at low level on a cheap sofa. Can you believe that?

Erdogan recently announced that the AKP’s Turkey will not participate in any sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from gaining the nuclear weapons it wants in order to incinerate Israel. Then, in defiance of American attempts to impose harsher sanctions on Iran, particularly in the area of refined oil products, Ankara agreed to establish a $2 billion crude oil refinery in northern Iran as a joint venture project.

We sat the ambassador of a regime that is collaborating with our most dangerous enemy down on a low sofa for a frank discussion about the nadir to which his boss has brought our relationship. Inconceivable!

In an interview with The Guardian ahead of his recent trip to Iran, the Turkish premier preposterously accused our Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon.

Lieberman’s deputy, Ambassador Danny Ayalon, avoided a public upbraiding of the Turkish representative in Israel over this, nor did he call attention to widespread Turkish human rights violations, nor did he toss even one not-nice name at Erdogan. But he sat the Turk down on a low sofa. Nu?

Erdogan refuses to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he has broken the Western consensus by hosting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for a formal visit in Turkey. No Moslem leader, said Erdogan, could ever commit the war crimes and genocide in Darfur for which Al-Bashir is globally considered responsible.

Consequently, we sat the war-criminal-hugging Turkish premier’s ambassador down on a low sofa and read him the riot act. Is that really inappropriate?

AKP-run Turkish state-controlled television has now run several inflammatory anti-Israeli drama series, including episodes that portray IDF soldiers raping and massacring Palestinians, and Mossad agents kidnapping young Turkish women.

Danny Ayalon delivered a mild rebuke with a bit of a sting to it by sitting the Turkish ambassador down on a low sofa — so that Turkey will know that we too have a bit of national pride. Nishkeferlach. I can live with that.

The current winter in Israel-Turkey ties is also the result of genuine anti-Semitism in the AKP. Erdogan, for example, told Istanbul University students at an academic convocation last year that they should work hard but try not to be like the money-grubbing Jews. This is gutter talk.

So Erdogan’s ambassador doesn’t get to sit in a diplomatically-classy, high-backed, plush leather chair. He gets the low sofa.

Actually, this is quite understandable.

* Orginally published in The Jerusalem Post as The low sofa affair on January 19, 2010.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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