Turkey and Israel: A friendship destroyed

Relations between Turkey and Israel have reached a crisis point over Israel's attack on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara.

The crisis between Turkey and Israel is deadly serious, said Mine Senocakli in the Istanbul Vatan. Israel still refuses to apologize for the fatal attack last year on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, in which eight Turks and a Turkish American died. The boat was the lead ship in a flotilla carrying activists, mostly from Turkey, who were trying to penetrate Israel’s blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation. In a brutal and outrageous attack on civilians, Israeli commandos boarded the ship and opened fire. A U.N. report published last week found that Israel had used “excessive force” and called for an apology and compensation for the victims. Faced with Israel’s insistence that it owes Turkey nothing, Ankara has now “written off Israel.” Diplomatic ties have been cut. “We have given notice to Israel” that any further attacks on civilians “will be regarded as a declaration of war.”

When will Israel see reason? asked Murat Yetkin in the Istanbul Hürriyet. We have already recalled our ambassador. As a second step, the Turkish navy is sending warships to patrol the eastern Mediterranean, as a way of showing Israel that we won’t let it be “the bully of the region.” Neither country has anything to gain from this dreadful escalation of tensions, which could easily lead to physical conflict. “But it is difficult to talk when the dead bodies of civilians are still haunting us.”

It’s Turkey, not Israel, that is at fault, said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. The U.N. report says that Israel has every right to blockade Gaza, and that in fact Turkey is to blame for “implicitly supporting the flotilla” that tried to break that blockade. It notes that Israeli forces met “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore justified in defending themselves. “Yet, in a supreme act of chutzpah,” it is Turkey that is using the U.N. report “to justify a series of actions meant to hurt relations between the two countries.”

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An apology to Turkey is not necessary from a legal standpoint—but it’s still the right thing to do, said Yoshi Yehoshua in the Tel Aviv Yedioth Ahronoth. Turkey has always been our closest ally in the Middle East, a Muslim state that has shown us friendship. We can’t afford to jeopardize that. What if Turkey were to form close ties with Gaza, or cooperate with the Iranians or Syrians against us? Plus, Turkey is one of our largest trading partners. If Ankara cuts trade ties or confiscates Israeli goods as compensation for the Mavi Marmara incident, our economy will take a huge blow. “Israel needs to be the responsible adult and worry about its security, not about its ego.”

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