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Turkey’s Erdogan: Lift Gaza Sea Blockade or No Relations with Israel

Despite recent verbal overtures from Turkey towards Israel, Erdogan's demand - that Israel lift the naval blockade of Gaza - means the relationship will not be mended
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan with de facto Gaza Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan with de facto Gaza Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Photo Credit: Mohammed Al-Ostaz / Flash 90

Turkey, until only recently one of the few secular, economically vibrant democracies in the Muslim world, has been in a tailspin for some time.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s forceful prime minister, several years ago began backsliding on secularism. Once that pebble began rolling down the hill, it grabbed with it chunks of the other indicia of democracy, such as press freedom and the right to peaceful protests.

There are now more jailed journalists in Turkey than anywhere else in the world.

When peaceful protests broke out against the government last spring in Teksim Gezi Park, and again throughout the fall and winter, the Turkish government’s startlingly harsh response was closer to what happens in Iran or Russia, than in the western democracies Turkey has been compared to over the past several decades.

Erdoğan’s internal political difficulties include a widespread governmental corruption probe, a plummeting economy and an open feud with a very powerful former ally, Fethullah Gülen.

Turkey’s growing derailment has drawn down with it the formerly positive relations between Israel and Turkey.

Recent hopeful-sounding hints at renewed positive relations between Israel and Turkey were just dashed again by Turkey’s leader.

On Tuesday, Erdoğan publicly stated that Turkey will never normalize relations with Israel so long as Israel maintains its blockade of Gaza.

“As long as the siege on Gaza isn’t lifted, it [an agreement] won’t happen,” Erdoğan told reporters at an Istanbul press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 11. “The siege must be lifted and that must be part of the protocol, signed and agreed upon.”

WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN THE TWO ALLIES

The chill between the two former allies, Israel and Turkey, first went public over Turkey’s support for a breach of Israel’s lawful naval blockade of Gaza.

That came to a head on May 31, 2010, when Israeli naval commandos boarded the Turkish Mavi Marmara, a flotilla run by the Turkish “charity” the IHH, on which pro-Palestinian Arabs were attempting to breach that naval blockade. The Israelis landed on the deck of the ship, seeking to peacefully convince the protesters to change directions and deposit any charitable goods they hoped to deliver to Gaza, via an Israeli port. Those goods could then be transported legally over land to the border entrance into Gaza.

Instead, as was captured on film and in photographs, the hostile Mavi Marmara crew attacked the Israelis with metal rods and other dangerous weapons. Israel Defense Force troops were forced to defend their colleagues using live fire. Nine Turkish protesters died in the clashes and 10 Israelis were wounded.

Weapons found on board the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010

Weapons found on board the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010

Turkey blamed Israel for the violence, and withdrew its ambassador from Israel, then expelled Israel’s ambassador to Turkey. Hostilities between the two countries has been pronounced since then.

But when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Israel in the spring of 2013, he persuaded Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to apologize to Erdoğan in a telephone call. After lengthy persuasive discussions between the two allies, Netanyahu agreed that Israel would pay Turkey compensation for the Turks who died on the Mavi Marmara.

On Sunday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave an interview that suggested the thaw was nearly complete.

“We are living through a period where our relationship is closest to normalizing since Mavi Marmara,” Davutoglu told a Turkish television station. “We’re in touch for a final meeting, compensation will be another step and there may be concrete developments to get aid to Gaza and Palestine.”

But Erdoğan, whose criticism of Israel seems as reflexive as those of other intractable haters of the Jews, consistently blames Israel for all kinds of unacceptable (to him) situations. He blamed former Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi’s ouster, in part, on Israel, and he blamed the widespread Turkish protests in June, in part, on Israel. It will be a terrible thing if there is an outbreak of some dreaded disease in Turkey, but no doubt should that happen, Erdoğan would also blame that on Israel.

Erdoğan’s very close relationship with the ousted Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamad Morsi helps to explain the Turkish leader’s strong interest in assisting Gaza, which is run by Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot.

It is highly unlikely Israel will agree to relax the blockade of Gaza, for several reasons. The most important one of which is that there is no such thing as a relaxed blockade. A legal blockade, and the international community has deemed Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be legal, so only as long as there is not a single breach. Once breached, a legal blockade becomes illegal.

An additional reason Israel must not relax the naval blockade is the only reason there is one in the first place: without it, weapons smuggling into Gaza from countries and regimes hostile to Israel would pour in. Those weapons, very bad and only worse, would reasonably be expected to be used in an attempt to destroy Israel.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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19 Responses to “Turkey’s Erdogan: Lift Gaza Sea Blockade or No Relations with Israel”

  1. Cant we just tell this guy to iss our ass and support those who look to ouster him?

  2. 'Tamer TroubleindaHouse says:

    hahaha… is this muschi blond in her brain?

    You have nothing to loose, only your pride. Nuttyahoo has kissed the hand and has to kiss the shoes too… Swallow it.

  3. Herb Glatter says:

    Good job Lori as always

  4. Greater and Greater rejection of Israel taking Place as History races towards Armageddon , watch for the Blood moon that will take place on Passover April,15th 2014 an amazing Event that will Effect the Nation of Israel

  5. HAHAHAHA Keep crackin down dude Hashem Yeshuah is reloadin. Dont forget to bring the other middle eastern thugs with you GRRRRRRRRR Psalm 83 YOU LOSE tHEN GET MORE MAD and get the big mob boss Russia back with you and BAM!! Ezekiel 38 and that time Hashem does battle for us “andI will destroy in front of the world to let them know that I AM the L-rd who executes Righteous judgement.” paraphrsed Not sure which war comes 1st. Now I know what Hashem Yeshuah said when he said that we war not with flesh and blood but with dark principalties. I can se that it has NOTHING to do with Israel but the world is going to test Hashem Yeshuah and see if He’s going to protect His Israel.. Hashem is raiseing up modern day Pharoahs to display His splendor in their destruction. So in conclusion Turkey man good luck but Hashem is Mighty and thanks for unknowinglly bending to His will. ” I will put a hook in your jaw and bring you against my people ” P.S Mr Turkey man there are 2 billion Notsreem and if you dont want to bu anything from us then the notsreem will. So your loss Because Hashem has said He would BLESS those who bless Israel and CURSE those who curse it okay turkey .

  6. They will be the losers here.

  7. Joel Fisher says:

    Obama needs to apologize to Bibi for making Bibi apologize to to Erdogan

  8. WE OPT FOR NO RELATIONS ~!

  9. Ken Man says:

    So the moral of the story ? Stop listening to and obliging the present American administration

  10. Alan Kardon says:

    Israel has survived without being your friend. Not sure if they can survive by being your friend. Stop giving terrorist weapons and we can talk.

  11. Aldo Mimoun says:

    Turkey is only good for one day"Thanksgiving", besides that who needs Turkey?

  12. Some friend! We have no friends in islam…anywhere, in any of its branches or manifestations. "They Must Go!"

  13. Jeff Rosner says:

    Anthony Kent : Turkish Taffy

  14. Yechiel Baum says:

    Turkey has on its border Iran, Syria and the CIS and relied on Israel to protect her flank but forgot it. Seems after apologizing to Turkey for having a low table, Turkey got used to Israel constant apologizes and for what? If they do not like Israeli furniture, they could extend a gift of furniture to the Foreign Ministry. They can afford to since Turkish airways flies six flights daily without competition so who needs such friends. We have not forgotten the Ottaman occupation of Israel and maybe that is their intent in using the HAMas and Hizbollah puppets since they teach us that the moslem world is one big corruption world.

  15. Rise Waxenberg Sachs says:

    It's time that Israel rejects the "requests" for moderation, i.e. apologizing for incidents initiated by enemies and accusations of not adhering to signed commitments. If the U.S. was to be attacked daily by missiles and rebuked by other countries we would consider it an act of war and take appropriate action. If the U.S. bent over backward to assist it's enemies like Israel gives humanitarian aid to Palestinians — clean water supplies (for which Palestinians have still not built internationally funded sewage) and outstanding medical aid — the public would protest that calling it aiding and abetting the enemy. Israel is a tiny country – the only Democratic country in the region. Why are they allowing themselves to be pushed around by their aggressors? Why does the world believe that as a people that Jews are horrible? Do we remind them that we have the demand to commit ourselves to Tikkun Olam? Their words and their rejection of peace bespeaks their embracement of dishonesty and violence.

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