Turkey Raises the Ante on Flotilla Standoff - Commentary

Turkey and Israel still remain at loggerheads over efforts to settle their dispute about the deaths of Turkish nationals who were killed while resisting the takeover of their Gaza-bound ship last year. The sticking point is Israel’s justified refusal to apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident that was caused by Turkey’s attempt to bolster the Hamas regime in Gaza. But rather than backing off on their ill-considered support for breaking the blockade of the terrorist enclave, the Turks appear to be doubling down on their anti-Israel invective.

The Jerusalem Post noted today the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported on Sunday that in an effort to bludgeon Israel into submission, the Turkish government is contemplating completely cutting its political and economic ties with Jerusalem. Even worse, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is considering a trip of his own to Gaza. But whether or not the Turks are bluffing— and the betting here is they are — Israel is still well-advised to avoid any further concessions to Ankara.

Though its relationship with Turkey is of great importance to Israel, going any further toward an apology for defending itself in this manner would be a mistake that would open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences both for the Netanyahu government and its successors. The Turks may think pressing Israel on this point in the weeks prior to the United Nations vote on Palestinian independence is a smart strategy, and there’s no doubt Jerusalem would love to put the controversy to rest.

But as tempting as it may be for Erdogan to play to his base by going to Gaza or cutting ties with Israel, he has to know there will also be consequences for Turkey. Identifying Turkey with the rogue terrorist regime in Gaza would undermine Turkish relations with the United States and even complicate ties with Western Europe. At a time when Turkey has to be worried about instability in Syria, perhaps Erdogan thinks he can wean Hamas away from Iranian influence because it reportedly cut back on its aid to Gaza due to Hamas’ lack of support for the Assad regime in Damascus. But does Turkey really want to become the principal sponsor of Hamasistan?

It is just as much in Turkey’s interest to put the Mavi Marmara mess to rest as it is in Israel’s. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon informed Israel Sunday he would again postpone the release of the report on the Mavi Marmara incident to give both sides more time to reach an agreement, which would effectively remove the need to publish it. No matter what Turkey threatens, Israel needn’t give in on the apology.

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