Tensions between Turkey and Israel are raising after the Netanyahu government refused to apologize for the deaths during the raid on last years Gaza Flotilla.
Nine Turkish citizens were killed on 31 May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the ship ‘Mavi Marmara’, sailing under Turkish flag to Gaza in an attempt to breach the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ever since, Turkey has demanded an apology, the payment of compensations to the families of the killed, and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu issued an ultimatum on 1 Sept, saying “for us the deadline is the day the UN report gets released, or we resort to Plan B.” Mr. Davutogly was referring to the report of the Palmer Commission, the UN body chaired by New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, that was tasked to investigate the events last year.
The report was finally published on 2 Sept after being leaked to the New York Times a day before. The problem is, that the report clearly states that Israel was in keeping with international laws when it defended the blockade of Gaza. “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report continues. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea [..]”
The 105-page document also states, that when the Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, they were confronted by “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were required to use force for their own protection. Israel’s military is criticized for using excessive and unreasonable force but after reading the report one is tempted to think that maybe Israel should demand an apology from Turkey and not the other way round.
Regardless of the facts, Turkey expelled the whole Israeli embassy staff last Friday after Israel refused to bend to the pressure, the relations with the Jewish state are now downgraded to second-secretary status. Additionally, all military cooperation are suspended immediately. But the most worrying statement came when Mr. Davutoglu said on Friday that, “Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.”
To heighten the tensions even further, it was announced that Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Gaza later this month.
After threatening Cyprus over the planned exploitation of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean and practically invading Iraq during the fight against Kurdish insurgents, Turkey now goes a step further by deliberately alienating and threatening one of the most powerful nations in the region. Mr. Erdogan and his AKP government must have a lot to gain from doing that, but Turkey could also lose a lot.