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Israel’s loss 3 septembre 2011

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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The Daily Star (Lebanon) September 3, 2011, p. 7

Daily Star Editorial

Just because something is breathtaking, it isn’t necessarily a surprise. The arrogance and poor judgment shown by Israel over its refusal to apologize for killing eight Turkish nationals last year aboard a flotilla destined for Gaza falls into that category — Shocking, yes, but not a total shock. Israel’s stubbornness led Turkey to expel its ambassador in Ankara and suspend all military ties between the two nations. It was outrageously shortsighted.

Israel is surrounded on all sides by hostile countries, three of which it occupies land within. Its relatively good relationship with Turkey was worth far more than the symbolism of having a regional superpower — and a predominantly Muslim one at that — as an ally. The bilateral relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv provided Israel with large economic benefits, a boon for a state so heavily reliant on western aid. It also furnished Israeli with military and strategic knowhow to continue to survive in the face of near unanimous Arab antipathy.

With so much seemingly at stake, Israel, one would have thought, ought to have swallowed its trademark chutzpah and said sorry for killing innocent and unarmed protesters as it sought to enforce an illegal military blockade. However, given Israel’s internal makeup and its history of acting with impunity over almost all international issues, the breakdown of its friendship with Turkey is perhaps better viewed as inevitable.

Such gaffes will occur when a country’s foreign policy chief is Avigdor Lieberman. The hawkish foreign minister executed the flotilla saga all the deft and thoughtfulness of the former nightclub bouncer he is. His appointment by Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates endemic nepotism within what some bafflingly continue to term « the only democracy in the Middle East. »

Israel’s insistence on not apologizing was merely the latest act of brinkmanship by an administration that, with the knowledge that it has the world’s richest country as its indiscriminate backer, continues to feel it can flout international law. Turkey might be a strategic opportunity missed but, in the eyes of Israeli officials, Ankara can go hang as long as Washington remains obsequious.

Turkey’s expulsion will delight Arab leaders. Unencumbered by an often awkward alliance with Israel, Turkey is now ripe for enhanced coordination. The chance to strengthen ties, both practically and ideologically, with one of the region’s most significant players should be grasped fully by Arab leaders. The opportunity to further isolate Israel on a regional level is likely one many officials in local capitals will gladly take.

Turkey has been bold in its recourse by punishing Israel for a characteristic foreign policy slip up, and geopolitics has a way of producing winners from even the most losing situations. The interest and loyalty of Turkey in the Middle East is once again up for grabs. Israel’s loss could be the Arab world’s gain.

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