Everything comes back to Gaza.
Bibi Netanyahu is taking Turkey’s insult at canceling Israel’s participation in a NATO military exercise with deep umbrage. He’s decided that Turkey may not be able to continue to play the role of mediator in talks between Israel and Syria, which it had done while Ehud Olmert was prime minister:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want Ankara serving as mediator in any future diplomatic negotiations with Syria, in view of the crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey.
…Netanyahu said he objects to Turkey resuming its role as mediator and does not see how the country can become “an honest broker” between the two sides.
It all goes back to Gaza. Turkey had brokered a deal between Israel and Syria that was on the verge of bringing the two parties together for direct talks for the first time in years. Olmert, turning his back on this opportunity, decided to invade Gaza instead.
At Davos, Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan took the opportunity to tell Shimon Peres that Israel had disappointed the world by its actions in Gaza. When Peres lectured him rather hysterically about the righteousness of Israel’s cause in invading Gaza and the moderator refused to give Erdogan sufficient time to reply, the Turkish leader walked out in disgust. Ever since, he has bided his time and waited for an opportune moment for payback. That came last week when he pulled the plug on Israeli participation in military maneuvers.
But someone ought to tell Bibi that things are different now than they were under Olmert and the then U.S. president, George Bush. Now, there is a U.S. president who appears to want a rapprochement with Syria. There also appears to be a Syrian leader who is reciprocating. So dissing Turkey and refusing to negotiate with Syria means a potential new front for tension with the U.S. That complicates things a bit and will possibly deter Bibi from outright rejectionism. Though one should never underestimate Bibi’s capacity for turning a real opportunity into a lost opportunity.
The entire concatenation of events should remind us that the Gaza war is playing an even more seminal role than one thought possible, in the currently frayed relations between Israel and the world community; whether it be the Goldstone Report or Israeli relations with Turkey. It’s the bone that sticks in the craw.