Turkey/Israeli War of Words – by Stephen Lendman
A previous article discussed release of the leaked UN Palmer Commission’s report on Israel’s May 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre, killing nine Turkish nationals in cold blood.
Access it through the following link:
Ever since, Turkey demanded an apology and compensation for loved ones of those killed. In fact, Israel never says it’s sorry, even when caught red-handed. Turkey called it unacceptable, warning of sanctions and other consequences.
On September 2, they began, Istanbul’s Today’s Zaman headlining, “Turkey downgrades diplomatic ties with Israel after UN report leak,” saying:
“Ankara has slammed Israel with sanctions of reduced diplomatic ties and a hold on all military agreements” after the UN report was leaked to The New York Times.
Calling it “null and void,” Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said sanctions are only “initial steps” against Israel for refusing to apologize.
They include expelling Israel’s ambassador, Gabby Levy, and his deputy, Ella Afek, (effective September 7), downgrading diplomatic representation in both countries to first secretary level ahead of possible severing them, if only short-term.
After Israel’s May 31, 2010 massacre, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel, leaving its embassy operational solely at the envoy level.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said:
“Israel squandered all of the opportunities to end the crisis, and now it must pay for it.” He correctly added that Israel’s blockade is illegal, the Palmer Commission’s whitewash notwithstanding.
Davutoglu also said Turkey will “do whatever it takes to implement its interpretation of the significance of international waters in the Mediterranean. We cannot accept the blockade of Gaza. We cannot say that the blockade aligns with international law.”
Moreover, the Palmer Commission’s biased conclusion “does not correspond (to) Turkey’s….”
Davutoglu additionally announced cancellation of all defense contracts between Israel and Turkey, saying Ankara will also initiate legal action to end Gaza’s siege in international courts as well as help aggrieved families file lawsuits.
Unless Israel changes positions and apologizes, “we will put Plan B into play,” Davutoglu said, adding only that Israel and other international parties are aware of what’s coming.
He also stressed that Israel failed to grasp (or simply won’t accept) the consequences of “gigantic changes in the Middle East region.”
President Gul warned:
“It seems (Israel doesn’t) comprehend Turkey’s determination to show that the rights of our citizens will be protected to the end and the things that happened have not been forgotten. The steps….announced today are the initial measures. Others may follow, depending on Israel’s attitude and the course of events in the future.”
Gul also called on Israeli allies to warn its government that “in order to reach peace and stability in the region, there are steps Israel needs to take.”
He emphasized that measures taken and planned only target Netanyahu’s government, not longstanding Turkish/Israeli relations, suggesting whatever happens going forward sooner or later will end.
That said, Netanyahu has every incentive to remain hardline, even at the risk of overstepping too much and causing a greater rupture.
In fact, however, deteriorating relations began long before the Flotilla massacre. More on it below.
On September 2, Israeli Army Radio differed from Netanyahu from Netanyahu, saying security forces should have apologized to Turkey straightaway and paid reparations to avoid criminal lawsuits filed against its elite naval Shayetet 13 Special Forces.
They specialize in sea-to-land incursions, counterterrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence, hostage rescue, high seas boarding, and cold blooded murder of victims targeted for assassination, even in international waters, adding piracy to charges of homicide.
In response to Turkey’s sanctions and diplomatic downgrade, hardline Knesset Speaker Danny Danon asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Turkey a terror-supporting state and impose sanctions on Ankara, saying:
“Turkey has gotten closer to Iran and constitutes a direct continuation of the axis of evil. The government in Washington must answer the Turkish problem before it is too late. The Turks have crossed the line. They supported the flotilla. They support terror and they dare ask Israel to apologize to them.”
Ruling coalition chairman MK Ze’ve Elkin added:
“Turkey, who supports terrorist organizations that shoot rockets at Israeli citizens every day (a false charge), are those who need to apologize and take responsibility. Turkey, who cruelly represses the national longings of the Kurds are the last ones who can preach to us. Israel needs to stand strong before the chutzpah and the extortion of Turkey’s Islamist government.”
MK Yohanan Plesner called expelling Israel’s ambassador and deputy “a new low in our declining relations….”
Unaware perhaps that Turkey recalled its ambassador in May 2010, MK Arye Eldad said Israel should expel its representative and demand payment of damages to the soldiers injured during the Flotilla massacre.
In contrast, MK Haneed Zoabi, aboard the 2010 Flotilla, said:
Turkey reacted correctly while “Israel continues to disrespect human life, the nations of the region and neighboring countries’ sovereignty. Just as Israel is planning a new social order, it should consider a new diplomatic policy, in which it pays a heavy price for oppression, occupation and belligerence.”
MK Ahmed Tibi agrees, saying “whoever kills pays a price. The Israeli Judaism will lead to an apology from the most extreme and most arrogant Israeli government. It is only a matter of time – the blood of the Turkish victims is screaming from the ground and the water.”
So far, Israeli policy remains hardline. It espouses violence, not peaceful coexistence, confrontation over diplomacy, as well as strength through militarism, intimidation, and naked aggression.
It also claims Jewish supremacy, specialness, and uniqueness as God’s “chosen people.” No wonder it persecutes Palestinians, maintains Gaza’s siege, and threatens Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.
As a result, more violence ahead is likely, not conciliatory efforts for peace, let alone ending its illegal occupation that assures more trouble.
In fact, expect it if the UN General Assembly grants Palestine statehood and full de jure membership when it meets later this month.
Nonetheless, it’s high time it affirmed what long ago should have been done, no matter what Washington and Israel try to block it or plan in its aftermath.
Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.
New York Times – Again Supporting Wrong Over Right
On September 2, its editorial titled “Turkey, Israel and the Flotilla” highlighted support for the worst Israeli crimes, saying:
“The United Nations has long pummeled Israel, and Israeli leaders initially resisted an ‘independent’ investigation into the” Flotilla raid.
Israel went along, of course, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stacked the Palmer Commission with pro-Israeli/anti-Palestinian supporters, so “accepted (its) findings” when revealed well in advance of the report’s release.
The editorial blasted Turkey, saying:
“We don’t blame Israel for wondering if Turkey is keeping this conflict going to burnish its standing in the Arab world.”
Adding that “Israel should apologize for the deaths,” it said “Turkey should stop upping the ante.”
Turkey, of course, wants Israel held responsible for cold blooded murder. Yet it’s willing to accept only an apology and compensation for victims’ families. Hardline Israelis refuse to say they’re sorry, shooting themselves in the foot in the process.
Unaddressed in this, past editorials, or commentaries was Israel’s lawless act, murdering targeted nonviolent humanitarian activists in cold blood in international waters.
Nor do Times correspondents, editorials, or opinion writers acknowledge or explain Gaza’s illegal siege or that Palestine has been lawlessly occupied for over 44 years.
Of course, longstanding Times policy has been to support wealth and power interests, not rule of law values and right over wrong.
As a result, it one-sidedly supports the worst of Israeli and US crimes, ongoing in multiple theaters against humanity.
Hamas Blasts UN Report
Victimized under siege, Hamas spokesman Ismail Rawdan spokesman told Press TV:
“We condemn this biased report which aims to exonerate the Israeli occupation by failing to address the suffering victims. It also fails to highlight the Palestinian humanitarian situation and Israeli blockade which is a war crime.”
Others agree, including International Solidarity Movement co-founder Huwaida Arraf, calling the report an “expected whitewash,” designed to avoid truth and justice.
Norman Finkelstein said its findings were “shocking (and) morally debased,” claiming Flotilla participants’ motives were “sinister,” not “humanitarian.”
What else could be expected from a commission stacked with pro-Israeli supporters!
Frayed Turkish – Israeli Relations
A previous article addressed them, accessed through the following link:
It explained that relations began deteriorating much earlier despite years of close military, economic, political, technological, cultural, academic, and practical relations.
The 1993 Oslo Accords, in fact, facilitated them based on (false) notions that Israel sought peace. As a result, relations were less than entirely cordial. Underlying tensions persisted that grew as peace proved illusive, Israel choosing confrontation that erupted during the September 2000 Al-Aqsa (second) Intifada.
The 2003 Iraq war also caused friction, positioning both countries on separate sides. Israel’s preemptive 2006 Lebanon war elevated tensions further.
So did Cast Lead from December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009, inflicting mass casualties and destruction. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, in fact, accused Israel of war crimes, including using illegal terror weapons like white phosphorous.
Then at the 2009 World Economic Forum, Erdogan walked off the platform after a heated exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres that included condemning Cast Lead.
At issue also is Turkey wanting to position itself as an indispensable regional power, mediator and peace maker, while maintaining ties East and West.
Turkey wants Middle East security. Israel often disrupts it. Both countries also vie for regional dominance, while at the same time cooperating on military, intelligence and other mutually strategic interests. At least until the present row, suspending them at least temporarily.
At the same time, the more assertive Turkey becomes, the more at odds it is with Washington, its key NATO/EU allies, and Israel.
In fact, trying to please all sides while positioning itself as an indispensable regional player may cause it more problems than it achieves, especially given Washington’s aim for unchallenged Mediterranean Basin control from North Africa through the Middle East, into Central Asia to Russia and China’s borders, using Turkey for its own strategic interests.
On September 2, the Mossad-connected DEBKAfile accused Turkey of conducting a “hate campaign for bringing Israel to its knees and has entailed support for the terrorist organizations dedicated to its destruction,” naming Hamas and Hezbollah.
They, of course, want out of reach peace and stability because of Israeli belligerence, not conflict to destroy a state it prefers to engage on equal terms.
Turkey also wants good relations, provided Israel respects its interests. Instead of explaining it, DEBKA accused Ankara of “using Israel as a whipping boy for their failed agendas,” and failing to “understand that the Israeli army is not about to play kids’ games with Turkish terrorists.”
DEBKA concluded saying, “the glory days of close military ties….are gone for good.” Turkey wants “to drive a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem,” including by “derail(ing) their close military and intelligence collaboration,” calling it “Turkish blackmail” to enlist its cooperation on other Middle East issues.
They’re considerable with America embroiled in multiple regional wars, involving stakes also affecting Turkey.
A Final Comment
On September 3, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid headlined, “Report: Turkey navy to escort aid ships to Palestinians in Gaza,” saying:
Turkey “will significantly strengthen its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea” in response to the Palmer Commission report.
An unnamed Turkish official was quoted saying:
“The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their bullying practices against civilian vessels.”
Henceforth, Turkish naval vessels will accompany ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. At issue also is “ensuring free navigation” between Cyprus and Israel, including areas where both countries cooperate on oil and gas drilling.
In addition, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to visit Gaza at a time he believes best. According to the unnamed official, it’s “to draw the world’s attention to what is going on (there) and to push the international community to end the unfair embargo imposed by Israel.”
On September 3, Ravid headlined a second article:
“Turkey to refer Israel’s blockade of Gaza Strip to The Hague,” saying:
As soon as next week, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu will “appeal the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague….to probe the legality of Israel’s naval blockade,” stating that “(w)e cannot say that the blockade aligns with international law….”
Adding that the ICJ should decide, he indicated Turkey will accept its ruling. He also said:
“If Israel persists with its current position, the Arab spring will give rise to a strong….opposition as well as the debate on (other) authoritarian regimes.”
If Turkey’s current positions hold, to one degree or other, battle lines short of open confrontation are drawn between once close allies. They bear close watching.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.