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