[Marxism] Business as Usual: Behind Turkey and Israel's Not-So-Secret Meeting

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 9 09:16:35 MDT 2010

Counterpunch Weekend Edition
July 9 - 11, 2010
Business as Usual
Behind Turkey and Israel's Not-So-Secret Meeting


Recriminatory words exchanged between Turkey and Israel over the 
latter’s May 31 assault on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla have 
given way to the pragmatism of national self-interest. On June 30, 
ministers from the two countries “secretly” met in Brussels to 
attempt to smooth over differences and repair bilateral ties 
marred in the wake of the attack.

It was a startling development when contrasted with the 
indignation voiced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan 
after eight Turkish activists and one dual U.S.-Turkish citizen 
aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed by Israeli commandos. At the 
time, he characterized the damage done to Turkey-Israel relations 
as “irreparable.”

Erdogan quickly became a hero in Gaza. He was seen as the only 
regional leader who had taken demonstrable action and directly 
challenged the three-year-old siege. His forthright words were 
surprisingly unencumbered by the diplomatic baggage Middle 
Easterners have long come to expect from their leaders:

“Despots, gangsters even pirates have specific sensitiveness, 
follow some specific morals. Those who do not follow any morality 
or ethics, those who do not act with any sensitivity, to call them 
such names would even be a compliment to them ... This brazen, 
irresponsible, reckless government that recognizes no law and 
tramples on any kind of humanitarian virtue, this attack of the 
Israeli government by all means ... must be punished.”

Since the raid, Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, 
cancelled joint military exercises and denied the Israel Defense 
Forces (IDF) permission to use its airspace.

While in Brussels to discuss its bid to join the European Union, 
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Israel’s 
Industry and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. The meeting came 
at the behest of President Obama when he met Erdogan the week 
prior at the G20 Summit in Toronto.

Davutoglu was reported to have insisted Israel comply with three 
demands before relations could be restored: issue a formal apology 
over the raid, pay compensation to the victims’ families and 
consent to an international inquiry to investigate the operation.

Netanyahu’s precarious governing coalition was placed in immediate 
jeopardy afterward; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the 
extremist Yisrael Beitanu party was livid when he learned of the 
conference on television. Evidently, Netanyahu kept him and the 
foreign ministry out of the loop, opting instead to make the far 
more Turkey-friendly Ben-Eliezer his representative.

Snubs and political maneuvering aside, it is clear the leaders of 
Turkey and Israel endorsed the ministerial get-together. It is 
also logical that Israel would want to engage in fence-mending 
with a Muslim nation (and NATO member) which whom it previously 
had enjoyed good ties and benefited from training in its airspace.

Indeed, Israel had adequately repaid Turkey for negotiating a 
nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran, possibly setting back its case 
for a preemptive strike. It had also taken Turkey’s mediation 
between Israel and Syria off the table. Having accomplished these 
goals, Israel could now afford to try and recoup the perks of the 
strategic relationship.

For Turkey, the ties are equally important. In late June, a 
military delegation was in Israel receiving instruction on how to 
operate pilotless aircraft and drones—the same kind used by the 
IDF against Palestinians. Such technology is coveted by Turkey in 
their ongoing battle with Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part 
of the country and northern Iraq.

As the New York Times reported, Turkey’s $190 million deal for 
Israeli drones has not been cancelled. An analyst from Jane’s 
Defense Weekly relays from Turkish sources that military trade 
between the two nations accounted for $1.8 billion in 2007, making 
Israel second only to the U.S. as an arms supplier to Turkey.

As one Israeli official said, “It’s business as usual.”

Diplomatic initiatives and overtures that reduce Mideast tensions 
are always welcome. It must be recognized, however, that Turkey 
and Israel’s motives to do so are self-serving. Many will rightly 
ask if Turkey is more concerned with repairing relations with 
Israel so it can continue to acquire the desired military 
technology. They also wonder if Erdogan may yet find cause not to 
sell out Gaza’s Palestinians.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be 
reached at: rbamiri [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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