Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla shatters key Turkey-Israel ties
The raid on the Turkish-led Gaza Freedom Flotilla has dealt a harsh blow to Turkey-Israel relations. Ankara's sharp response is strongest signal yet that Turkey may abandon its bid to be regional mediator.
One of the greatest diplomatic casualties of the Israeli raid on the Turkish-led Gaza freedom flotilla, which left at least nine dead and dozens injured, may be irreversible damage to Turkey-Israel relations.Skip to next paragraph
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Following the flotilla raid, Turkey summoned its ambassador to Israel back to Ankara. In remarks made in parliament on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke in harsh terms that seemed to leave little room for an easy rapprochement with Israel.
"This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse. This attack is on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace," he said.
"No one should test Turkey's patience," added Mr. Erdogan, who has grown increasingly critical of Israel since the start of the Gaza war in late 2008. "Turkey's hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable."
Ankara’s harsh response to Israel’s action is the strongest signal yet that Turkey may be abandoning its efforts to become a regional mediator between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, favoring instead a more pointed foreign policy. The shift will allow it to capitalize on Muslim frustration with Israel, giving an added boost to its already rising profile in the Middle East.
“This mediation thing is over. Turkey now is one of the sides in the Middle East conflict. It is quite clearly opposed to Israel,” says Sami Kohen, a veteran Turkish political analyst and columnist who writes for the Milliyet daily. “This event is almost a climax in this shift.”
“Turkey’s hand in the region is strengthened now,” Mr. Kohen adds. “There is now more reason for Turkey to take a more active part in the events of the Middle East, since it has suffered personally from this attack. Now it can justify its anti-Israeli positions, which get a good deal of sympathy in the Arab and Islamic world.”
New complexities for US alliance
Ankara's shift complicates a historic alliance between Turkey and the US, which has become more important in recent years. An air base in southern Turkey is one of the most important transit bases for ferrying troops and supplies to Afghanistan. Turkish mediation, meanwhile, had gotten Israel and Syria back to the peace table until that effort was aborted when the Gaza war broke out.
Increased tension between Turkey and Israel clouds one of the few sunny spots the US had previously enjoyed in the region.
The deterioration in the once-close relationship between Turkey and Israel has been mirrored by an equally precipitous rise in Turkey’s visibility and involvement in the Middle East, an area that it had kept at arm’s length for decades because of historical enmity and mutual suspicion.