Turkey, in a move sure to up the ante regarding tensions afflicting its relations with Israel, announced today that future Turkish aid convoys to Gaza would be escorted by Turkish naval vessels. The goal is to avoid repetitions of last year’s Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara which led to nine dead”
“Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, said in an interview on Al Jazeera television. “From now on, we will not let these ships be attacked by Israel, as happened with the Freedom Flotilla.” He also said that Turkey had taken steps to stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean.
Given that Turkey fully intends to break the Gaza blockade, Israel has little choice if it wishes to continue the blockade but to stop the Turks. If it allows the Turks to proceed, then the entire Israeli rationale claiming the siege is legal falls like a house of cards. If Israel resists there will be bloodshed. If it does not, the siege will, even according to the rationale offered by Palmer, no longer be valid. These will be interesting times.
Of course, Turkey may just be bluffing in an attempt to compel Israel to offer the full apology and reparations Turkey has demanded. In that sense this could be brinksmanship, albeit of the most dangerous and dramatic kind. My money? Israel folds. Israel doesn’t like facing long odds. It prefers a sure thing like fighting poorly armed Hamas militants to fighting a well-armed nation whose population is ten times larger than its own.
The issue of Israeli exploitation of natural resources is also significant because there are significant oil and gas deposits off the coasts of both Lebanon and Gaza which Israel may seek to exploit. Turkish intervention in these or other claims could considerably complicate Israeli development of them, which might include filing complaints with international trade bodies, lawsuits, and the like.
What’s clear here is that Erdogan intends to make Israel pay, and to pay in ways that are significant both in the pocket book and in prestige.