Remember how there was supposedly going to be “no daylight” between them in dealing with the flotilla aftermath? Turns out daylight has broken after just four days. Question: If you’re intent on pushing a policy as reckless as ending the blockade — and it is reckless, as we all know from Lebanon that neutral “peacekeepers” aren’t going to keep Iranian weapons out of Gaza — why on earth would you wait to do it in response to a provocation? You’re sending a crystal clear signal here to the Muslim Brotherhood scumbags responsible for the flotilla and their Turkish sponsors that, yes indeed, dangerous confrontations can be leveraged into bringing western pressure to bear on Israel. This is going to turn Erdogan and his Islamist pals in the Turkish government into Muslim heroes, which practically guarantees further provocations from the new “champions of the ummah” or whatever.
The officials say that Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla trying to break the siege and the resulting international condemnation create a new opportunity to push for increased engagement with the Palestinian Authority and a less harsh policy toward Gaza.
“There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy shift is still in the early stages. He was reflecting a broadly held view in the upper reaches of the administration…
[W]orld powers have grown increasingly disillusioned with the blockade, saying that it has created far too much suffering in Gaza and serves as a symbol not only of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians but of how the West is seen in relation to the Palestinians.
“Gaza has become the symbol in the Arab world of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and we have to change that,” the senior American official said. “We need to remove the impulse for the flotillas. The Israelis also realize this is not sustainable.”
You’ll never remove the “impulse for the flotillas.” The real impulse is, as it has been for 60 years, Islamic regimes wanting to incite and exploit their populations’ sense of grievance over the Palestinians to further their own regional ambitions. If the blockade lifts and Iranian weapons start to flow and, inevitably, a new war erupts between Israel and Hamas (and likely Hezbollah too), then that’ll be the next thing to exploit, replete with Erdogan pandering for even more votes by screeching about how Israel’s betrayed Turkey’s “friendship” or whatever. In fact, here’s a smart take on just how shrewdly and cynically the Turks are behaving from Thomas P.M. Barnett:
Trust me: Ankara has about as much interest in the Palestinians as the rest of the Muslim regimes in the region; protesting their plight is a means to larger but self-serving ends. Turkey is pursuing a policy of “zero problems” with its neighbors, all right, but elevating its regional influence requires that Ankara not be trumped by Tehran’s successful nuclear bid. And that’s why Turkey is now committed to demonizing its old ally across the Mediterranean…
Turkey’s deputy prime minister called the raid “a dark stain on the history of humanity.” So now Ankara has its bloody shirt, which will be used — once Tehran inevitably announces the weaponization of its nukes — to justify Turkey’s rapid reach for the same. Just like Tehran cannot openly rationalize its bid for regional supremacy vis-à-vis archrival Saudi Arabia, Turkey requires an appropriate villain for its nuclear morality play. Anybody watching the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations over the past year knew that some cause célèbre was in the works. Suddenly, if perhaps on purpose, Turkey can claim that — despite its efforts to broker a non-nuclear peace in the region (including a recent enrichment deal engineered with Brazil) — it needs its own deterrent against Israel’s nuclear arsenal, too.
He actually goes further than I would here. I’m not so sure the “bloody shirt” is aimed specifically at justifying a nuke program; the wonderful thing about demagoging Israel for Muslim leaders is that it can be deployed to virtually any political end. I’m also less sure than he is that this is all kabuki by the Turks rather than a byproduct of genuine and increasingly vicious anti-Israeli — or even anti-semitic — sentiment. Your must-read of the day is this Robert Pollock piece in the Journal:
To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don’t speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn’t really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States…
The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called “Valley of the Wolves,” which I saw in 2006 at a mall in Ankara. My poor Turkish was little barrier to understanding. The body parts of dead Iraqis could be clearly seen being placed into crates marked New York and Tel Aviv. It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich…
I was somewhat taken aback that the prime minister could not bring himself to condemn [this] fictional blood libel. I should not have been. He and his party have traded on America and Israel hatred ever since. There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey’s recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.
Whether Erdogan himself has become a true-believing Israel-hating fanatic or is merely willing to use those who are — like the bat-swinging goons on the flotilla — is one question. What all this is doing to the Turkish population is another, and more important insofar as it what it portends for regional politics long after he’s passed from the scene. My blood ran cold last night reading this piece at the Daily Beast by an educated, secularist Turkish Muslim with Israeli friends who suddenly finds herself jonesing on sweet, sweet demagoguery:
But there is something in this neo-imperial, neo-Ottoman spirit that has taken over the country since the flotilla episode that is addictive, even for a secular Turk like me. Yesterday, I watched the footage of demonstrations against Israel all over the Middle East and Europe with mixed feelings. I hate the fact that Turkey has become the primary nemesis of Israel—a country where I have many good friends who look and live like me. But then again, from Beirut to Sweden, I watch demonstrators holding Turkish flags and take guilty pride in those scenes.
Once the dust settles, there is too much we need to discuss back home. Can we really help the Palestinians and energize the peace process? Is Turkey strong enough to lift the embargo in Gaza? Or wait, wait—are we just abandoning our place in the West, losing ourselves in a fleeting moment of grandeur?
Only time will tell. But for now, I am sitting here, in Europe’s largest Muslim country, sipping rose wine and occasionally staring across the desk at an old photograph of my great-grandfather—the Albanian-born, Ottoman police chief of Jerusalem at the turn of the century.
And I have no clue whether to go left or right.
That last line precisely encapsulates why, despite Anthony Weiner’s righteous effort to turn up the heat on Turkey for their role in provoking this clusterfark, absolutely nothing will change in our posture towards Ankara. The west can’t afford to let them “go right,” i.e. east, which is why the White House is suddenly having its epiphany that the blockade of Gaza reviled by so many Turks is pretty darned awful after all. Shameful. But take two minutes to read Weiner’s piece in full, as it’s a rare cool breeze of reason from the left after days of heat aimed almost exclusively at Israel. These are the same people willing to parse conservatives’ every syllable for coded incitements to violence, and yet Turkey having its fingerprints all over a transparent jihadist attempt to provoke a regional crisis is barely worth commenting upon. Perfect.