The White House announced on Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged ship that left nine Turks dead. The apology came on a call orchestrated by President Obama on the final day of his three-day Israel trip. Erdogan long had insisted on an apology as a precondition of detente in the strained Israel-Turkey relationship. Netanyahu long had resisted calls to apologize.
According to Israel Radio, Obama spoke first, then handed phone to Netanyahu. Absent additional details about the call, here’s how I imagine it went down:
Obama: Hey, Bibi, before I head over to Jordan, mind if I use your phone for a sec?
Bibi: Sure, go ahead. Do you need a phone book? If you’re looking to order in some good local ice cream, I have the number on speed-dial.
Obama: Uh, no thanks. Michelle doesn’t let me have ice cream. Stick around for a sec. (Obama pulls a creased paper out of his pocket, dials Bibi’s bedside phone.). It’s ringing. (Flashes Bibi a wide grin.) Hello, Recep? It’s Barack.
Erdogan (on phone): Who?
Obama: Barack Hussein Obama, the president of the United States.
Erdogan: Oh, hi! Nice to hear from you! Are you calling to invite me to the White House? I can’t wait to come.
Obama: Uh, that’s not why I’m calling.
Erdogan: But John Kerry told me you’d invite me if I took back what I said about how Zionism is a crime against humanity, which I did. Didn’t you read my interview in the Danish newspaper Politiken?
Obama: Actually, I was going to on the ride over to Ramallah on Thursday, but I couldn’t get any reception for my iPad. Anyhow, I’m back in Jerusalem now and I have someone here who has something to say to you.
Extends the phone to Bibi, who backs away, waving his arms furiously and shaking his head.
Obama, with an insistent look on his face, gestures for Bibi to take the phone.
Obama (whispering): Come on, Bibi!
Bibi (whispering): I can’t!
Obama (whispering): Come on! I came all the way to Jerusalem. I had dinner with you and Sara. I said that thing about how Israel prevents another Holocaust. You owe me.
Bibi (reluctantly takes the phone): Hello?
Bibi: It’s Bibi.
Erdogan: Yeah, I know. I could hear you and Obama whispering.
Bibi (sighs): I’m sorry if you’re upset that Israeli commandos had to use deadly force against armed Turkish extremists trying to break the blockade of Gaza three years ago. I know nine Turkish citizens died during the raid. That was an operational mistake.
Erdogan: And I’m sorry for suggesting that Zionism is a crime against humanity. It’s just a crime against the Palestinians.
Bibi hands phone back to Obama.
Obama: Great, things are back to normal again. Let’s tell everyone!