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Buddy Cop

Two badass cops run the region and, after a sad montage of their falling out, you'll be pleased to know that Turkey and Israel are back on the streets...

One’s ­­­­­a grizzled old empire who thinks he’s seen it all. The other’s a hotheaded rookie who never met a fight he didn’t like. From different worlds and with different creeds, can these two misfits team up to take out the bad guys before it’s too late?  Coming to a theater near you, it’s Israel and Turkey, the action-comedy blockbuster that’ll have you believing in the human spirit – and also cold political calculation.

The beauty of the buddy cop movie is its predictability. If two outcasts from different worlds meet, there’s initial distrust, followed by some comical hijinks (or intense shootouts) that bring them together. You’ve gotta have the twist, of course, a lie revealed or a dramatic confrontation that threatens to sunder the partnership.  But in the end, they’ll find common ground, put aside their differences, and save the goddamn day.

Israel, of course, is Riggs, which I’m sure would make Mel Gibson just thrilled.

The funny thing is, when Israel and Turkey met, they already had a couple thousand years’ history. For better or worse, the Jews and the Turks go way back – through wars, through empires, through pogroms and renaissances. Every so often some Byzantine emperor would try to mass convert the Jews, but they mostly shrugged it off. The status of the community sank or swam according to the whims of whatever monarch they happened to be paying taxes to. They certainly had more fun than some of Europe’s Jews - but that’s a different movie. 

When Turkey updated its imaged and decided it was going to call itself a republic, there was a surge in the xenophobic sentiment common to new-old countries, and minorities started feeling the squeeze, especially those who cashed out from the previous regime. After a couple nasty pogroms (attacks designed to thin out their numbers) Turkey’s Jews took the hint and started for the door. A new “wealth tax” was the last straw, shockingly enough, and a walk turned to a run.  

Then the Israel thing happened, and suddenly instead of a fading empire and a stubborn minority you had two countries staring each other in the eye.  Turkey wasn’t impressed with Israel’s posing and big talk, and Israel thought Turkey was a relic of another era. Fingers tensed on triggers. Edgy banter was exchanged. But between the Cold War and the regional blossoming of crackpot dictators, the world seemed intent on becoming as crazy as possible, as quickly as possible, and the two knew they had to work together to make it through. 

Isn’t it great living in the only region in the world where the two of us are considered the sane ones?

This is where we deviate from the buddy cop formula because, for most of this movie, the two have been pretty decent friends, at least on the surface. Turkey acknowledged Israel’s existence when it was just a year old, and diplomatic relations were fairly close for decades. They had their spats – Turkey wouldn’t return Israel’s phone calls for twelve years after Tel Aviv helped itself to east Jerusalem – but after 1992 they were back on the streets together, kicking ass and taking names. Instead of saving each other’s’ lives in dramatic and unlikely ways, they said lots of nice things, which wasn’t nearly as badass.

Tensions in the partnership resurfaced after the Israel – Gaza conflict in 2008. Denunciations were exchanged, nasty press conferences were held. But the real breakdown came in 2010, when the aid ship Mavi Marmara tried to make its way through the blockade of gunboats surrounding Gaza. Israel fired, nine Turks died, and shit hit the fan. Turkey called it a “bloody massacre” and yanked its ambassador, while Israel refused to apologise, launching an investigation into the incident itself that, to everyone’s utter lack of surprise, cleared it of all blame

Who, me?

This is the part of the movie that usually goes by in a montage, alternate shots of each country alone, reflecting on what he’s lost. There may be sad music playing. What could possibly heal this rift, make them remember that they’re not just neighbours – they’re partners against crime. 

Well, how about a big old crime? A war, the crime so big it isn’t against the law. The Syrian civil war has reached a point where it’s no longer just a tragedy, it’s a grenade with the pin pulled out. Close don’t count except for horse shoes and chemical weapons, and now that there’s been confirmed use of gas attacks it’s time to quit playing around. Turkey’s got the gun necessary to take action, but Israel’s got the intelligence on movements behind Syrian lines. Together they just might keep this insanity from turning contagious.

Then there’s the money (You didn’t think I’d go a whole column without bringing up the Benjamins, did you?). Israel hit paydirt a few years back when it discovered the biggest damn natural gas source found in the last decade smack at the bottom of the Mediterranean. They called it Leviathan, because screw subtlety. The annoying thing about gas is that it’s really hard to ship it like oil, on a tanker or truck.  Instead you’ve got to use long, easily explode-able pipes, running right across your neighbour’s backyard. As you can imagine, this has an interesting effect on international relations: Israel needs to pipe its gas to Europe and Turkey’s tired of hitting up Russia and Iran for its energy needs, so the two have a nicely mercenary reason to reconcile, one that they don’t mention much at press conferences.

Add to this the fact that the Prime Minister of Turkey is looking to distract people from the news that he’s been negotiating with some Kurdish separatists, and you’ve got the perfect start to Act Three, where the two get the team back together and take down the bad guy. Police Chief Obama got the credit for hauling them into his office and getting them to make nice, but both sides were ready for the big man-hug. Israel apologised for the Mavi Marmara, even promised to pay blood money to the families of the dead. Turkey’s talking about pumping oil to Israel. They’re not quite back in the squad car busting perps yet, but it always warms my heart to see fear, greed, and political maneuvering push us to do what’s right. 


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