Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi is a veteran professional officer, graduate of the Reali military academy, the Golani reconnaissance unit and the Shin Bet security service, who returned to the career army and moved up the ranks of the Armored Corps to command the 36th Division in the Golan Heights. On election day, Mizrahi gave a talk at the Tactical Command College, at the Glilot base, where he blasted a new adversary: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister.Not a bad idea at all!
Mizrahi - who formerly served as the Army Headquarters' (the IDF ground forces) representative to the U.S. armed forces and frequently met with other army commanders who had been involved in the fighting in Kosovo and Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan - chose the platform of the international conference to deliver a sharp message. He attacked Erdogan for what the Turkish leader imputed to President Shimon Peres at another international conference, the World Economic Forum in Davos. He did not leave it at a clear allusion to the massacre of the Armenians and the suppression of the Kurds, but mentioned the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus as well. In response to Erdogan's call for Israel to be expelled from the United Nations, Mizrahi suggested that Turkey should be paired with Israel on such an occasion. ( Haaretz ).
Mizrahi, however, is not the sharpest pencil in the box. Up until now, the row between Turkey and Israel was symbolic. Both Turkey and Israel are countries with an oversize military, and a generals' junta that considers civilian rule (and civilians in general), an annoyance. The ties between the Israeli military and the Turkish military are much more important to both sides than the barbs exchanged between politicians.
Mizrahi's tirade was noted immediately by the Turkish generals, who warned that this wasn't Davos. This time it was serious:
Israel and its apologists cannot win this. They can either not respond to the harsh (and fully justified) criticism of the popular and moderately Islamic Turkish government, thus allowing Turkey to take the lead in representing regional public opinion and applying pressure on Israel. Or they can follow Mizrahi and shove in Turkey's face the (fully justified) accusations about the thuggish history of the Turkish military, destroying the military ties between the countries.
The Turkish military also denounced Mizrahi's remarks, saying they "distort the realities and are excessive, unfortunate and unacceptable."
Such comments "can harm national interests in relations between the two countries," the statement said.
"We expect the Israeli general staff, which we believe places importance on relations with the Turkish armed forces, to clarify the issue," it added. (AFP)
The best Israel can do is contain the damage, muzzle Mizrahi, apologize, and hope that the Turkish generals will put pressure on Erdogan to reciprocate with moderation. The IDF already distanced itself from Mizrahi's remarks.
The best we can hope is that the pressure on Erdogan to continue to speak bluntly will have the upper hand.
The deteriorating relations are already having an economic impact.
Industry insiders have admitted that the main export lines to Turkey – agriculture and chemicals – have already begun suffering the consequences, as the Turkish government body which subsidizes their contracts declared an embargo on Israeli-made equipment.I bet the Turkish army is not happy about the boycott pressure. But it cannot say it.
Another field of commerce bracing for a blow is that of defense exports. Turkey has one of the largest armies in the world and Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd. and Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed a $141 million deal with its air force just days before the diplomatic crisis erupted.
"They wouldn’t have won the bid today," said a source in the defense establishment. "Elbit and IAI are lucky to have signed it prior to the war in Gaza. Still, it may take Turkey longer to materialize it." (Ynet)