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The importance of Netanyahu's surprising apology

Associated Press

President Obama's trip to the Middle East appears to have already produced a significant diplomatic breakthrough that few saw coming.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday apologized in a personal phone call to Turkey's prime minister for a deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship in 2010, in a sudden reconciliation between the two countries that was partly brokered by President Obama during his visit to Israel this week, according to Israeli, Turkish and American officials.

In the call, Mr. Netanyahu expressed regret for the raid, which took place as Israeli troops were enforcing an aid embargo on Gaza, and offered compensation, Turkish and Israeli officials said. And after years of holding out for a public apology for the deaths, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accepted Israel's gesture in the phone call.

As a result of the phone conversation, which President Obama reportedly participated in, diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have been fully restored and that ambassadors would be reinstated.

As fascinating as this is, there's plenty we do not yet know, including what, if anything, Obama did to cajole Netanyahu.

But the fact that Obama's leadership helped broker this diplomacy is encouraging. As Noga Tarnopolsky noted, it's "no small thing to convince Israel to apologize for military activity."