“Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday agreed to let a Turkish team inspect the construction site at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, work Muslims fear will harm the face of the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Olmert had shown him photographs of the construction work, but had failed to convince him that it would not harm the holy sites there. Olmert agreed to a Turkish suggestion for a technical team from Turkey to inspect the site, Erdogan said.
Olmert said he agreed to the inspection because “Israel has nothing to hide.” Amiram Barkat and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents 15 February
Under normal circumstances, intensive and painstaking negotiations and preparation would hide behind the “script” such a narrative presents.
But that’s not how “Quick Draw” Olmert operates.
Prime Minister Erdogan pitched the idea on the fly and Olmert responded, after giving it about as much thought as the time it takes to read this sentence. Or less.
Could things have been handled differently?
The Israeli advance team could have shown their Turkish counterparts the presentation Olmert was planning to make to their boss to establish what the reaction was going to be.
Erdogan’s idea to involve Turkish experts could then have been developed and explored by the advance team instead of considered for a millisecond by Mr. Olmert.
And if the idea made sense the text of the joint announcement would have been drafted in advance of the meeting.
The announcement would have clearly set the parameters of the Turkish team’s visit so that there were no surprises. In point of fact, considering the sensitivity of the matter, and given that Turkey is a quick flight away from Israel, one would have expected a preliminary from the Turkish team before the announcement just to make sure that there were no misunderstandings.
Turkey would have made its contribution toward defusing the situation and Israel would have gained an interaction with Turkey that at least implied their acceptance of Israel’s current control of the Old City.
But this wasn’t done.
Instead, already tonight Mr. Olmert is trying to recast what he agreed to after Mr. Erdogan’s office issued a press release describing the initiative.
Yes. It wasn’t even a joint announcement.
And since the parameters of the visit were not set, and given that there will be considerable pressure from the Moslem world on the Turks to condemn Israel, come what may, there is every reason to expect that that is what will happen.
Instead of addressing the very dry question as to whether or not the excavation at the Mugrabi Gate physically endangers the adjacent Temple Mount, the Turkish team can use this opportunity to blast Israel for excavating in “occupied Jerusalem” and then extrapolate from that to whatever flights of fantasy they wish regarding how Israeli activities and policies in “occupied Jerusalem” endanger the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
So instead of a positive meeting we now have damage control.
One thing is certain: “Quick Draw” Olmert hasn’t learned from his mistakes.
And this is costing Israel dearly.