First came the news that advisers to Israel’s foreign minister had recommended that Israel provide arms for the Kurdish terrorist group PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been fighting an armed struggle against Turkey for an autonomous Kurdistan. The idea was for Israel to punish Turkey for expelling the Israeli ambassador, after Israel refused to apologize for its raid on the Gaza flotilla, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed. That news was first revealed a week ago in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and then in the widely read Haaretz (but never published in the New York Times.)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “did not deny or confirm the plan,” according to Haaretz. His office said that Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman was considering only a “theoretical option in case of an escalation” and that “a decision will be made only and if necessary.” Netanyahu added that his goal was to improve relations with Turkey.
Now the head of the PKK has announced the group would not accept Israeli arms until Israel apologizes for helping the Turkish government capture the PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999.
Of course if Israel did arm the PKK, it could be designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” by the US State Department. State Sponsors of Terrorism, which include Syria, Iran, and Cuba, are subject to sanctions by the United States, including a ban on arms-related exports and sales, and prohibition of economic assistance by the United States. That would certainly constitute a change in US-Israeli relations.
The same Israeli advisors who recommended arming the PKK suggested a second way to punish Turkey for expelling the Israeli ambassador: “offer assistance to the Armenians and file UN reports against Turkey for violating the human rights of Turkey’s minorities.” The issue here is that, to date, Israel has refused to recognize the Armenian genocide—in deference to the Turkish government, once its closest ally in the Muslim world. That refusal has been especially galling since Hitler himself considered the Turks’ genocide of the Armenians to provide a model of sorts for the Third Reich’s campaign against the Jews. In 1939, a month before Germany invaded Poland, Hitler famously said “Who today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
In conclusion, I offer two modest suggestions: (1) Israel would be wise not to arm the PKK; (2) truth and justice would be served by Israel finally recognizing the Turks’ genocide of the Armenians.