Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 07:16:59 AM EST
A couple of years ago, Turkey was one of Israel's most important allies. But we are told (The Guardian, May 25)
relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated since the Israelis launched a three-week war on Gaza in 2008-09
In fact, The Guardian painted the flotilla as a deliberate provocation by Turkey:
A flotilla of eight boats carrying thousands of tonnes of construction materials, medical equipment and other aid is preparing to sail to Gaza in the next few days, setting the scene for a confrontation with Israel which has vowed to prevent the ships breaking the blockade on the Palestinian territory.
One of the organisers of the flotilla, which includes three vessels from Turkey, is IHH, a humanitarian aid group supported by Ankara. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated since the Israelis launched a three-week war on Gaza in 2008-09. An attempt to block the flotilla is likely to increase tensions between the two countries. The Turkish prime minister, Racep Tayyip Erdogan, has called on Israel to avoid this be allowing the boats through.
As announced, Israel intercepted the flotilla in the high seas and towed it to Ashdod. However, excessive force was used and Turkey does not appear ready to let it rest
NATO will hold emergency talks on Tuesday at Turkey's behest after the deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid-carrying ships bound for Gaza ...
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Santiago, Chile, that his government was demanding the NATO council gather to address a crisis that has already seen Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Canada and Washington where he had been due to meet with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
The relationship between Israel and Turkey took a turn for the worse this past January, when
Israel summoned the Turkish ambassador, Ahmet Çelikkol, to complain about a Turkish television drama that depicted Israeli security forces kidnapping children and shooting elderly men.
Last night the ambassador was called to the Knesset office of the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon. With television cameras filming, Çelikkol was seated on a low sofa before the Israeli officials who sat on higher, upright chairs. There was no handshake or refreshments, only an Israeli flag on the table between them.
Ayalon turned to the Israeli television journalists and photographers and said in Hebrew: "The important thing is that people see that he's low and we're high and that there is one flag here." When journalists asked Ayalon to shake hands with the ambassador, he said: "No. That's the point." Turkey summoned the Israeli ambassador today to express its "unease" over the incident.
Israel soon ended up apologizing
, but the resentment runs deep:
Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday slammed a group of 17 MKs who sent a letter of apology to Turkey over Ayalon's treatment of the ambassador.
"Ayalon respects the MKs who apologized, but where were they over the past two years of anti-Semitic broadcasts in the Turkish media and unbridled criticism of Israel from Ankara," one official told Israel Radio.
"After two years in which Turkey has failed to get the diplomatic message, we had to start making a noise," a member of Ayalon's staff said.
The Israeli campaign in Gaza since 2008 has not pleased Turkey, and PM Erdogan doesn't mince words:
Erdogan added more criticism of Israel, telling a news conference: "Israel must put itself in order and it must be more just and more on the side of peace in the region."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday said Israel doesn't want a confrontation with Turkey, but that it won't tolerate anti-Semitic remarks and incitement against Jews.
Haaretz clearly blames the diplomatic trouble on Erdogan (the islamist, he)
Meanwhile, a leader article in Thursday's edition of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, praised Turkey's stance in relations with Israel, commenting that Israel's government understood no language other than force.
Despite Israel's official apology and a Turkish declaration that the crisis is over, relations between the two countries have been damaged irreparably, the newspaper said, predicting that Turkey and Israel would never again be as close as they were before Recep Tayip Edogan, the Turkish prime minister, came to power.
Turkey is undergoing a strategic shift, the paper said. With the road to Europe barred, Erdogan's government is turning eastwards towards the Muslim world.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that Turkey feels snubbed by the West (lately, by the EU's insincere position on Turkey's accession). This just in
from Al Jazeera blogs:
Long considered as a meeting point for East and West, the country's recent foreign policy has reflected this, balancing the interests of Western powers with the interests of the weaker countries their policies affect.
Fresh examples of Turkey's willingness to act outside the Western international consensus are not hard to find; this week the country is hosting an aid flotilla bound for Gaza; last week, it was brokering a deal with Iran on the removal of enriched nuclear fuel to diffuse tensions between Tehran and the US.
"We try to engage all actors in the region," Ibrahim Kalin, an advisor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, told a special panel on Turkey at the Al Jazeera Forum on Sunday.
Turkey "acts outside the Western international consensus" when it embarrasses the US by acting according to the values that the West claims to profess. An example of this was the so-called "alliance of civilisations" spearheaded by Erdogan and Spain's Zapatero after the latter's election in 2004, and which was endorsed by the UN. Spain is also behind the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement
on nuclear power, but US Secretary of State Clinton has criticised the deal as dangerous for global security
. So, now that Israel has (not wholly unpredictably) killed civilians on a Turkish vessel trying to break the Gaza blockade with Turkey's government endorsement, Erdogan is calling Israel's action "state terror"
and calling for a NATO meeting to discuss the "crisis", presumably threatening to invoke NATO's mutual protection clause
. Will the US tell Turkey that it's being reckless (seeing the tone of Clinton's remarks on Iran)? Will then Turkey leave NATO on the US' refusal to allow Chapter V to be invoked? Note that reportedly
several European countries have either recalled their ambassadors to Israel (as Turkey appears to have done) or summoned the Israeli ambassador to their countries for talks.