Tense relations between Turkey and Israel snapped this week, after a United Nations report essentially exonerated Israel for last year's deadly assault on a Turkish vessel. The ship, Mavi Marmara, was trying to break Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip when an Israeli raid killed eight Turkish citizens. After the U.N. released its report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government had no reason to apologize. Turkey then expelled Israel's ambassador and suspended trade, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkish naval vessels would increase patrols in the eastern Mediterranean. Is there any way to keep the dispute from spiraling out of control?
The rift will last as long as Erdogan is in charge: The Turkish prime minister is threatening to escalate the conflict by visiting the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. That would make Israel furious, and bolster the Islamist Hamas while weakening the more moderate Palestinian Authority. As long as Erdogan's "in charge, a return to the good old days is highly unlikely."
"Turkey and Israel: Can they repair the relationship?"
An apology from Israel would fix everything: The solution is simple, says Roger Cohen at The New York Times. While the U.N.'s report did say that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is "a legitimate security measure" given Hamas' habit of firing rockets into Israel, it also called Israel's raid on the aid flotilla — which was 72 miles offshore — an excessive response. While the U.N. still essentially cleared Israel of wrongdoing, it still urged Netanyahu and Co. to express regret and pay compensation. "Israel, increasingly isolated, should do just that."
"Israel isolates itself"
This rift hurts Turkey, too: The news that Erdogan is considering a trip to Gaza "raises the possibility of a sharp escalation in Turkey’s dispute with Israel," says Gideon Rachman at Britain's Financial Times. Already, Erdogan's "energetic championing of the Palestinian cause" has "profoundly changed" Turkey's reputation in Washington, D.C. Erdogan "presumably feels he can afford to stick it to the Israelis and their friends in Congress" to curry favor "on the Arab Street." But that isn't exactly a "brilliant move." Turkey needs to keep America as an ally.
"Israel, Turkey, and Greece"