Friday, September 09, 2011

Saber rattling

It was reported today that PM Erdogan of Turkey has threatened to send Turkish warships to protect any future flotilla of ships containing humanitarian aid to Gaza. This almost amounts to a declaration of war with Israel, since the Palmer Report issued recently by the UN Secty. General confirmed the legality of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and affirmed the right of Israel to stop and search any ships entering Gaza waters. This is the right of any state that is being attacked by an enemy, to check all ships and cargo to stop arms and individuals (terrorists) reaching that enemy, in this case Gaza.

Since the Palmer Report rejected Turkish and Arab assertions that Israel's Gaza blockade is "illegal," Erdogan has had the rug pulled out from under him. Instead of taking the rational position of accepting the Report, he not only has rejected it, but has issued a threat to take the case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. If he does, international maritime lawyers confidently predict that he will once again lose (unless there are some Muslim judges who vote automatically against Israel). In that case he is getting himself in deeper, it is a case of blind hatred of Israel prejudicing the relations between states.

The Israeli Government by contrast has been treading softly and making placating noises towards Ankara. There is a Turkish delegation expected for the annual Defense Forces exhibition in Israel, that many Defense MInisters from around the world attend. They issued a statement welcoming the Turkish delegation and it is expected that they will still attend. So it is a case of Turkey being split, some centers continuing good ties with Israel, while others, particualrly the Erdogan Govt. making matters worse. PM Netanyahu spoke at a naval officers graduation ceremony yesterday and reiterated that Israel will not apologise to Turkey and expressed confidence in the performance of the naval commandos. Also, Israeli Defense Minister Barak repeated his regret at what happened to the Turks aboard the Mavi Maramara, without actually apologizing.

But, if Erdogan carries out his threat, then this could bring Israel and Turkey into a direct collision course and could initiate military action that could lead to war. We all hope that cooler heads will prevail in Turkey and that members of the EU and the US will bring pressure to bear on Turkey to not take such an illegal and indefensible step.


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