ANKARA'S GAZA GAMBIT: A POLICY OF 'VA BANQUE'?
"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday Turkey would implement further sanctions against Israel and said that "our ships will be seen more frequently in those waters," referring to the Eastern Mediterranean. Erdoğan said that Turkey was "totally suspending" defense industry ties with Israel, after downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel.
"Trade ties, military ties, ties regarding defense industry, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures," Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara. Turkey started to implement sanctions on Israel upon Israel's refusal to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla that killed nine Turks last year.
Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives. Erdoğan described the raid as "savagery" and accused Israel of acting like "a spoiled boy" in the region. Erdoğan also told reporters that he may visit Gaza and would decide whether to do so after talks with Egypt. Erdoğan is planning to visit Cairo later this month".
"Turkey to enforce more sanctions on Israel: PM Erdogan." Hurriyet Daily News. 6 September 2011, in www.hurriyetdailynews.com.
"Turkey has set the stage for a potential naval confrontation with Israel by announcing that Turkish ships attempting to breach the maritime blockade of Gaza will be given an armed escort. The threat, made by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, sharply escalated a diplomatic row with Israel that has seen relations between the two former allies plunged into their worst crisis in decades.
Incensed by Israel's refusal to apologise for its deadly raid on a Gaza bound aid flotilla last year, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists on board the MV Mami Marmara, Mr Erdogan has announced a series of sanctions against the Israeli government in recent days. But it is his latest outburst that will cause most alarm in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. "Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the Turkish boats bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," Mr Erdogan told the Arabic television network Al Jazeera.
"From now on, we will no longer allow these ships to be the targets of attacks by Israel like the one on the Freedom Flotilla, because then Israel will have to deal with an appropriate response."
Senior Israeli officials were quick to denounce the threat, while insisting that they had no interest in worsening the increasingly noxious rhetoric. "These remarks are grave and serious, but we have no wish to add to the polemic," Dan Meridor, Israel's intelligence minister, told the country's army radio service. "It is better to stay quiet and wait. We have no interest in aggravating the situation by replying to such attacks." But, while some in Mr Netanyahu's government are hoping to defuse tensions, relations could deteriorate still further with Avigdor Lieberman, the fiery Israeli foreign minister, expected to announce a series of retaliatory steps against Turkey over the weekend. Reports in the Israeli press suggested that Mr Lieberman could even announce plans to meet and even finance Turkey's Kurdish rebels....
It is unclear whether Mr Erdogan's threat to give naval protection to future Turkish aid vessels trying to breach the blockade amounts to anything more than populist posturing. He did not reveal whether Turkish naval vessels would enter the territorial waters of either Israel or Gaza. The raid on the Mavi Marmara took place in international waters."
Adrian Bloomfield, "Turkey to provide armed escort for new Gaza Flotilla." The Daily Telegraph. 9 September 2011, in www.telegraph.co.uk.
The rising crescendo of threats & hostile actions emanating from Ankara raises questions in my mind at the very least as to the exact rationale for the AK governments actions vis-`a-vis Israel. I myself thought that whatever domestic Turkish political mileage which could be derived from the entire affair was more or less exhausted by the AK relative triumph in the recent Parliamentary elections. If that is still the case (and I do believe that it is), one can only surmise that the reason for Ankara's increasing overt hostility on this subject is caused by Erdogan, et. al., need to: camouflage as much as possible Ankara's inactivity vis-`a-vis the ongoing Syrian uprising. Where a series of Turkish statements about the Assad regime's need to de-escalate its repression of its population has in fact resulted in a mere nullity. Positioning Ankara in a cul de sac position diplomatically, as unlike the other Sunni regimes in the region (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States), Turkey has refused to go beyond his hectoring tone in its interactions with the Assad regime. The result being that in terms of the Near Eastern public, Ankara has come across as being possessing 'paper tiger' status in the Syrian crisis. And the whole Gaza contretemps, which first saw the Turkish premier become famous regionally speaking back in 2009 and 2010, from Ankara's perspective offers best means of burying or partially burying the embarrassment of the Syrian diplomatic debacle. The fact that relations with Tel Aviv might be pushed to the breaking point does not appear to faze in the least the Erdogan regime. Indeed, it would appear to be the case that perhaps breaking ties with Israel, or at the very least engaging in a policy of va banque in this almost entirely contrived dispute, in which Ankara leaves it up to Israel to decide to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey (and Ankara knows quite well that breaking relations with Turkey is something that Tel Aviv is loath to do). With all that being said, I for one highly doubt that Turkish ships will deliberately enter Israeli or Gaza territorial waters. Indeed, it could very well be the case, that Ankara is hoping (a forlorn hope?), that at the very last second, either immediately prior to the flotilla setting sail or nearing Israeli-Gaza waters, that the Americans, et. al., will intervene and contrive a modus vivendi, which Turkey will endeavor to proclaim to Urbi et Orbi represents a triumph of Turkish policy. In short what we have here is an old-fashioned 'policy of prestige', which I for one did not expect to see ever again employed by any but the smallest powers. Certainly not a regional power of Turkey's ilk. What the results will be, and if Ankara's calculations prove correct only time will tell.