In those days, at the very start of what was to be the First World War, country after country was declaring war on Germany. The spirit of the graffito reflected the hubris of the supreme commander, Kaiser Wilhelm, who relied on the war plan of the legendary German General Staff. It was indeed an excellent war plan, and as excellent war plans are apt to do, it started going awry right from the beginning.
The foolish Kaiser now has the heirs he deserves. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, a former army Chief of Staff whose intelligence is below the average even of that rank, has announced that Israel could not possibly apologize to Turkey, even though its national interests may demand it, because it would hurt our "prestige."
Many enemies, much prestige.
It seems that we shall soon run out of friends whom we can turn into enemies to gather even more prestige.
LAST WEEK a black cat came between Israel and its second best friend: Germany.
High-ranking German officials confided to their Israeli colleagues that their Kanzlerin, Angela Merkel, was "furious" when she heard that the Israeli government had approved the building of 1,100 housing units in Gilo, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Just a few days earlier, the Quartet had invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to restart negotiations and abstain from "provocations." If this is not a provocation, what is?
Merkel, generally a woman of placid equanimity, did not keep her rage to herself. She called Binyamin Netanyahu and gave him a severe dressing-down, something that had never happened before.
Until now, Germany has kept to a strict code of behavior towards Israel: after the unspeakable crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews, there could be no criticism of any Israeli act, Germany would pay for a crucial component of Israel's armaments, Germany would suspend all moral criteria as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was concerned.
Not any more, it seems. We may be losing our only second-best friend.
THE CLASSIC example of "How to lose Friends and Alienate People" is, of course, our affair with Turkey.
David Ben-Gurion, the arch-architect of Israel, believed that peace with the Arabs was neither possible nor desirable. He devised an alternative: a ring to encircle the Arab world -- an alliance of non-Arab allies. These included Iran (under the Shah), Ethiopia (under Haile Selassie), several other African states and, of course, Turkey (under the legacy of Kemal Ataturk).
Our relations with Turkey developed over the years into a very close marriage, especially cozy between the armed forces. Joint exercises, sales of lots of arms, intelligence sharing. While Israel was helping the Iraqi Kurds against Saddam Hussein, it helped Ankara to oppress the Turkish Kurds. Jerusalem seriously considered laying a pipeline under the sea from Turkey to bring in water, which Turkey has in abundance and Israel sorely needs.
Suddenly everything changed. Turkish-Israeli relations foundered like a ship hit squarely by a torpedo.
It started when the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, abruptly got up and left a public dialogue with Shimon Peres in Davos. Israelis could understand that: not everybody can stand Peres.
But Avigdor Lieberman's Foreign Office decided to retaliate. His deputy, a genius by the name of Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to his office for a rebuke and had him sit on a low sofa while towering above him on a high chair. The ambassador did not notice, but little Danny proudly explained his ploy to the assembled Israeli journalists. The Ambassador took his leave and went home.
Turkey reacted unofficially by sending the Mave Marmara to break the Gaza blockade. Nine Turks were killed. Turkey was in uproar. Erdogan demanded an apology. That's where the prestige came in.