Turkish - Israeli Relations - by Stephen Lendman
In May 2010, Israel's Gaza Freedom Flotilla Mavi Marmara mother ship attack, killing nine Turkish citizens, stoked tensions between the two countries.
At the time, Turkey warned it might sever diplomatic relations unless Israel apologized, consented to an independent international investigation, and ended its Gaza siege.
Israel, however, refused and stonewalled. Frayed ties followed. In fact, they began deteriorating earlier in the new millennium despite years of closer military, economic, political, technological, cultural, academic, and practical relations.
The 1993 Oslo Accords, in fact, facilitated them based on (false) notions that Israel sought peace. Even so, relations were less than entirely cordial. Underlying tensions persisted that grew as peace proved illusive, Israel choosing confrontation that erupted during the September 2000 Al-Aqsa (second) Intifada.
At the time, then Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit criticized Israel harshly. The 2003 Iraq war also caused friction, positioning both countries on separate sides. Israel favored eliminating a regional rival. Turkey wanted the status quo, opposing Iraq's partitioning and establishment of a de facto Kurdistan on its border.
Israel's preemptive 2006 Lebanon war caused more tensions. So did Cast Lead from December 27, 2008 - January 18, 2009, inflicting mass casualties and destruction. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, in fact, accused Israel of war crimes, including using illegal terror weapons like white phosphorous, saying:
"No one can claim that phosphorous shells are not weapons of mass destruction," exaggerating to make a point.
He also condemns Israel's lawless Lebanese overflights, sometimes at low altitudes, calling them "unacceptable action(s) threaten(ing) global peace." Moreover, he denounces regular Gazan air attacks and ground incursions, asking at one time:
"Is the Israeli government in favor of peace or not? Gaza was bombed again yesterday. Why? There were no rocket attacks. (Israel has) disproportional capabilities and power and (it) use(s) them. They do not abide by UN resolutions. They say they will do what they like. We can in no way approve of such an attitude."
Then at the 2009 World Economic Forum, Erdogan walked off the platform after a heated exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres that included condemning Cast Lead. The conflict disrupted Turkey's Israeli/Syrian mediation efforts at the time under its "zero problems" policy with neighboring states, hoping to further its assertive regional role, and position itself as a lead player to facilitate, among other goals, EU membership.
Erdogan, in fact, said:
"Turkey is coming to share the burden of the EU rather than being a burden for it. In order to be a global power, there must be a global vision and relations with different regions....Turkey will be the gate of the EU opening to Asia, the Middle East and the Islamic world....The full security of the EU passes through the full membership of Turkey."
In other words, Turkey wants to position itself as an indispensable regional power, mediator and peace maker, while maintaining ties East and West. In fact, Foreign Minister Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu said:
"The new global order must be more inclusive and participatory....Turkey will be among those active and influential actors who sit around the table to solve problems rather than" watch them fester.
Nonetheless, because ongoing tensions continued, Turkey cancelled Israel's participation in its October 2009 Anatolian Eagle military exercise, rankling its officials though concerns were thought to be temporary.