Turkey began the week with bad news from the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which set off from İstanbul to carry humanitarian aid to the suffering Gazans.
Although Israel earlier warned that “Israel’s navy was ready to prevent the convoy of ships from entering the blockaded Gaza Strip,” no one expected such a harsh reaction from Israel.
Soli Özel from Bilgi University says the worst-case scenario has come to pass and will lead to a revision of Turkish-Israeli relations, which were already strained by Israeli actions in Palestine over the years.
“The power balances in the Middle East will never be the same again. Israel’s legitimacy was very weak anyway and now this legitimacy will be discussed even more. The world will react to that,” he told Today’s Zaman.
The Palestinian territory has been under a tight Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade since 2007, when Hamas took over the territory after being elected in the 2006 elections. The blockade was enforced to put pressure on Hamas and to stop weapons from being smuggled in.
Professor İhsan Dağı from Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) also thinks Israel’s bloody interception will be a turning point for Ankara-Tel Aviv relations. “From now on, any establishment in Turkey, including the army, will not be able to explain any kind of cooperation with Israel to the public. This interception killed the possibility of working together on any subject. This tension will continue,” he told Today’s Zaman.
Turkey has in recent times taken various initiatives to ensure peace in the Middle East, seen by many as the cause of Israel’s harsh reaction.
According to Dağı, Israel’s reaction is not only related to the siege of Gaza but to Turkey’s raising role in the Middle East, especially regarding Iran.
Recalling that Turkey and Brazil recently signed an agreement with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, a search for a compromise which is not welcomed by Israel, Dağı said: “Israel will spread the propaganda that the position of Turkey, which will have awful relations with Israel, cannot be trustable regarding Iran,” Dağı said.
In strong criticism of the Israeli move, Sinan Oğan, chairman of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis (TÜRKSAM), said even pirates in Somalia act more humanely than Israel, adding that Ankara-Tel Aviv relations will be damaged irreparably.
“It is obvious that Turkey will react very harshly. Israel was complaining about the suicide attacks, but with this interception, they committed a suicide attack,” Oğan said.
Israel’s move was unacceptable for many since the flotilla had only humanitarian concerns and the operation took place in international waters.
“For better Turkish-Israeli relations from now on, Israel has to review its own policies and make radical changes. Otherwise there is no reason to expect any improvement in bilateral relations,” Uğur Ziyal, an experienced diplomat and a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs undersecretary, told Today’s Zaman.
‘War ships could have accompanied flotilla’
Although the flotilla was not sponsored by the Turkish government but was a civilian initiative, some question whether Turkey should have taken more steps to safeguard the convoy.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Bursa deputy Onur Öymen, himself a former diplomat, says Turkey should have deployed war ships to accompany the aid convoy.
“There were statements that Israel was going to resort to violence to stop the flotilla. What did Turkey in light of these statements? Did Turkey take an initiative considering the possibility of such an attack?” Öymen asked in an interview with Today’s Zaman. Stating that the current situation shows that Turkey did not take necessary steps to protect these ships, he added that what is upsetting is that the government neither deterred Israel from an intervention nor properly protected the convoy.
Israel’s storming of the flotilla has already drawn criticism from friends and enemies alike, with a number of governments and international organizations, including the European Union, the Arab League and the US, condemning the attack. Analysts say this incident will deteriorate Israel’s image in the world.
Professor İlter Turan from Bilgi University says Israel is in a panic and that this is why it has been engaging in controversial acts which are against international law. “Israel is most likely to tell the world that it was right. But, it is certain that there will be sharp international reactions directed at Israel. I think it will be hard for Israel to find support around the world,” he told Today’s Zaman.
However, according to political scientist Doğu Ergil from Ankara University, so long as the US continues to see Israel’s acts as legitimate, Israel will continue to carry out such bloody acts. “Israel is now over in moral terms in the eyes of the people of the world. The world should oppose Israel’s inhumane acts,” he noted.
İnal Batu, a retired ambassador, also questions the US’s stance on Israeli acts. “I wonder what kind of warnings the US delivered to Israel before this incident. Turkey should have influence on the US when it comes to this issue,” he said.