President Obama, Mediator

There was another apology in the news a couple weeks ago: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized on March 22 to Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a 2010 raid on a Turkish flotilla that killed 8 Turks.
Any apology is news, but of even more interest to peacemakers is the fact that this was apparently brokered by President Obama. The president was visiting with Mr. Netanyahu in Israel and reported that he encouraged him to reach out to Mr. Erdogan, and “both of us agreed that the time was right.” So Mr. Netanyahu phoned Mr. Erdogan, who accepted the apology. At one point, apparently the President got on the phone too. President Obama said afterwards that he’s been appealing to Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Erdogan “for the last two years” for them to fix “this rupture.” The event had chilled relations between Israel and Turkey.
I’m impressed. I don’t know the details, but I know how hard it is to persuade someone to apologize. I can only imagine how much tougher it is to get a head of state even to think about apologizing for his military’s actions –as well as to get a head of state to accept an apology where his citizens were killed. Both leaders had multiple justifications for standing their ground, but their rapprochement seems to be in the best interests of both countries.
Wouldn’t we love to know the details of the negotiations?! Did President Obama appeal to their mutual interests, history of alliance, or the cost of continued conflict? Presumably the negotiations were “shuttle diplomacy,” all caucus, but it ended with a simultaneous conversation over which the President more or less presided. Now if he could only have such luck with the Senate and House leaders…

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