The new frontiers of Israeli diplomacy
Yesterday (January 11 2010,) Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave the Israeli public a tangible demonstration of what his Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, meant when he told 150 ambassadors convened in Jerusalem that “the era of groveling is over.” Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador to reprimand him for an instance of non state-sponsored incitement on Turkish TV. This is what ensued, according to a report in this morning’s Yediot (full text after the cut):
When the ambassador was finally asked to enter the room, his hosts instructed him to sit on a low couch opposite the higher chairs in which they were seated. The hosts, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Europe, Naor Gilon, and Ayalon’s office director, David Segal did not smile at their guest and refused to shake his hand. When the photographers suggested a handshake, the Foreign Ministry officials refused. “That is precisely the issue,” said Ayalon. Ayalon made sure that no one could have any doubts that the humiliation of the ambassador was anything but deliberate: “The important thing is that people see that he’s low and we’re high and that there is one flag here,” he said to the photographers.
Just to make sure all Israelis got the message, Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom ran this photo on its front-page this morning (the text reads: “The Height of the Humiliation.”)
Alon Liel, a former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey, wondered on IDF radio this morning where this new school of diplomacy would escalate to next: “ordering the ambassador to get on his knees an crawl across the room?”
It may be, however, that the only appropriate response is satire.
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, January 12 2010
The course of action that was taken yesterday with the Turkish ambassador most probably will never be taught in schools for diplomacy. The ambassador was summoned to be reprimanded for a series that was broadcast on Turkish television. However, Foreign Ministry officials decided not to make do with a routine reprimand and added insult to the injury.
It began with the fact that the meeting was not held in the Foreign Ministry building, as is the norm, but in Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s office in the Knesset, where Ayalon was spending the day because of no-confidence motions. Contrary to protocol, Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol was forced to wait in the corridor for a number of minutes while Foreign Ministry officials set up the deputy minister’s office for the meeting. The Foreign Ministry officials, who noticed that Ayalon’s office staff had set out refreshments for the meeting, asked that the refreshments be removed from the table.
When the ambassador was finally asked to enter the room, his hosts instructed him to sit on a low couch opposite the higher chairs in which they were seated. The hosts, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Europe, Naor Gilon, and Ayalon’s office director, David Segal—did not smile at their guest and refused to shake his hand. When the photographers suggested a handshake, the Foreign Ministry officials refused. “That is precisely the issue,” said Ayalon. Ayalon made sure that no one could have any doubts that the humiliation of the ambassador was anything but deliberate: “The important thing is that people see that he’s low and we’re high and that there is one flag here,” he said to the photographers.
Throughout the course of the entire meeting, the Turkish ambassador was ill at ease. Ayalon protested the television series “Valley of the Wolves,” in which Israel and Jews are cast as baby-snatchers and war criminals. He said that television series of that kind were unacceptable and were the product of the grave statements made by top Turkish officials, first and foremost Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ayalon said that this placed the lives of Jews in Turkey in danger and was liable to damage relations between the two countries. The ambassador’s efforts to argue that the series was being broadcast on a privately-run commercial television station were not received with sympathy.
At the end of the meeting, Ayalon said that the intention had not been to humiliate the ambassador. “In the Knesset rooms there are low couches and regular chairs, which are high,” he said. “It wasn’t planned that way in advance. There was nothing here that a normal country wouldn’t have done.”
Senior Foreign Ministry officials accused Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of having created an artificial crisis with Turkey so as to impede the important visit that is to be paid by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Turkey next Sunday. In the course of that visit Barak is to meet with the Turkish defense and foreign ministers, the military leadership and President Abdullah Gul.
Lieberman is opposed to Barak’s visit, which he believes to be obsequious. Foreign Ministry officials said that Lieberman wanted to undermine Barak’s visit “and searched everywhere for a crisis with the Turks.” Lieberman’s media adviser denied outright those allegations, and said, “anyone who says that is stupid, a coward and obsequious.” Officials in the Defense Minister’s Bureau opted not to respond.
A short while after the meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol was finished, the crisis with Turkey proceeded only to worsen. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who met with Lebanese President Saad Hariri, took the opportunity to attack Israel once again. Erdogan accused Israel of stealing water from Lebanon and said that its planes invaded Lebanese airspace. “We need to stand shoulder to shoulder against the enemy’s plans,” said Erdogan. “We will never sit idly by in the face of Israel’s behavior.”
The Foreign Ministry quickly condemned Erdogan’s statements. “The Foreign Ministry condemns the unbridled fulmination by the Turkish prime minister,” read a Foreign Ministry statement. “The Turks are the last people who can preach morality to the State of Israel and the IDF, which is the most moral army in the world.”