Patrick Cockburn: A blow to relations with its key ally in the Middle East

Share
Related Topics

Israel's relations with its most powerful Muslim ally have plunged to a historic low, with the Turkish Prime Minister denouncing the killing of peace activists off the coast of Gaza as "state terrorism" and more than 10,000 protesters taking to the streets of Istanbul, with some trying to storm the Israeli consulate.

The Turkish government had not directly organised the flotilla of six ships – including the Turkish cruise ship Mavi Marmara – aiming to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, but the foreign ministry had made clear before the Israeli assault that it supported the voyage as a humanitarian operation.

As Turkey recalled its ambassador yesterday, and cancelled three joint military exercises with Israel, Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for the ruling AK Party declared: "Our relations with Israel will never be the same."

The once-warm relationship has turned more sour and acrimonious over the past several years, but the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the fact that most of the dead are Turkish, and the pictures of Israeli commandos stalking past railings draped with the Turkish flag, will have an explosive impact.

The Turkish army used to favour links to Israel and the military used to control Turkish foreign policy. This is no longer the case. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamic AKP have weakened the military's grip on power since they formed a government in 2002. Willingness to co-operate with the US and support its alliance with Israel is no longer true of the younger officers as it is of the older generals. Yesterday's action against the Gaza aid flotilla was only the latest in a series of incidents between Israel and Turkey. In 2009, Mr Erdogan stormed out of a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos when he was not given enough time to respond to Mr Peres's defence of the bombardment of Gaza.

Later that year, Turkey postponed an air force exercise because of Israeli participation; in retaliation, Israel sought stronger relations with Cyprus and Greece.

Other incidents followed. In an episode widely criticised as puerile in Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador this year to protest at a Turkish television programme which depicted Mossad agents snatching babies to convert them to Judaism. Mr Ayalon crowed that he had deliberately sat the ambassador in a lower chair than his own and removed the Turkish flag. Turkey later called for an apology.

Turkey is a more essential ally in the Middle East than it has been for years. It is playing a critical role in Iraq, helping the US to withdraw its forces more easily and Ankara's alliance with Israel has been a key plank of US diplomacy in the Middle East. The Turkish Foreign Ministry had warned earlier that Israeli action on the flotilla would have "irreversible consequences" and for once this diplomatic cliché may turn out to be true.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Ben Chu
David Cameron leaves Number 10 to speak at Parliament  

Tunisia attack: To prevent more bloodshed we must accept that containment has not worked

Patrick Cockburn
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue