Dimi Remez brings word of some startling Israeli reports explaining Israel’s sudden about face in agreeing to release all prisoners held from the Gaza flotilla. Prime minister Erdogan demanded that Israel release all Turkish prisoners, wounded and killed. He threatened to break off diplomatic relations if Israel refused. And finally he sent three military planes to Israel before Israel agreed to his ultimatum. Now that’s a man of action. Keep in mind that as recently as a few hours before this Israel was telling the world it couldn’t possibly release them because Israeli law required that those illegally entering the country (!) first be detained for 42 hours before they could be released.
First Yediot’s report:
Yesterday, the Turkish authorities demanded that Israel release all 350 of the Turkish citizens who were among the 600 foreign detainees. For this purpose, the Turks sent three military planes to Israel and demanded to be given all the injured and detained persons and the bodies of those who were killed.
And then Maariv’s:
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has managed to really frighten Israel. Yesterday evening Israel announced that it would deport all the Turkish flotilla detainees, including those suspected of participating in the lynch of the IDF commandos.
Through his Foreign Minister, Erdogan transmitted a message to Israel in two stages: first, he demanded that all the wounded, along with those that did not participate in the attack on the soldiers, be deported immediately; later he demanded that all the hundreds of Turkish civilians held in Beersheva — about 350 — be repatriated immediately. He even sent for this purpose two military ambulance planes and threatened that if his demand was not met, it would be impossible to repair relations between the two countries.
For over three hours, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Ministers of the Security-Diplomatic cabinet discussed the issue. Ministers Yitzhak Aharonivitch, Yaakov Neeman and Benny Begin were against the release; Ministers Ehud Barak, Eli Yishai and Avigdor Lieberman were for it; in the end Netanyahu decided — all would be released, or deported. The result would be the same: None would be prosecuted.
The deportation was already beginning, as buses transported the Turks to Ben Gurion Airport. The minute a plane filled-up, it took off.
When I reported on this development yesterday I knew that Bibi would never have agreed to such a thing on his own. I knew there had to be extraordinary pressure from some external actor. I’d hoped possibly it would’ve been Barack Obama. But his statements so far including as recently as this morning have been hopelessly limp and tone deaf. It turns out Turkey itself intervened and forced Bibi’s hand. And so as not to appear to be yielding to Turkey (and because all the other countries whose nationals were imprisoned would’ve demanded the same outcome), Bibi decided to release everyone.
Extraordinary. And further proof in case you needed any that Turkey has become, almost by accident, a leading player in the Israeli-Arab conflict. This article in the Washington Post analyzes that nation’s new stature in international affairs. Israel will have to reckon with this new development. If it doesn’t and decides to go off half-cocked into its next military adventure, it may find some very strong men in Turkish military uniforms that it will have to deal with.
Now a few words on my weak-kneed president: the latest from him is that while we fully expect Israel to mount a full, credible investigation of this “unfortunate incident,” we’re prepared to see some sort of international involvement. Don’t ask me what this means. I’m sure even Obama doesn’t have a clue. As for ending the siege of Gaza: fuhgedaboudit. Obama ain’t goin’ there. No way, no how. Too touchy. Too many Aipac directed voters to worry about. Obama will just wait for this to play out and hope it goes away. After all, he’s got to stick his finger in an oil well before the entire Gulf coast votes solid Republican in the next election.
Hey, I sympathize. I really do. But what will it take for him to exercise some real leadership? A major military incident between Israel and Turkey? Will that do?
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- Israel deports last of flotilla activists (guardian.co.uk)