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BURAK BEKDİL

burak.bekdil@hurriyet.com.tr

BURAK BEKDİL >Gaza, Jerusalem, Nicosia, Baku

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Since Turkey decided to isolate Israel in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara raid in which Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American in May 2010, the events have not exactly taken the route Ankara wished them to take. 

A well-deserved apology for the Israeli fiasco and the unnecessary loss of life has never arrived. Nor has compensation for the families of the victims. And the termination of Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip remains a Turkish dream. 

Meanwhile, two-way trade between Turkey and Israel rose by nearly 30 percent to $4.449 billion last year from $3.440 billion in 2010. In the same period, Turkish imports from the Jewish state rose more than 50 percent. 

Turkey’s “brotherly” relations with its southern and eastern Muslim neighbors – Syria, Iraq and Iran – have metamorphosed into something reminiscent of relations among brothers claiming the Ottoman throne. In the meantime, Israel has cultivated closer ties with Balkan countries such as Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece. It has also put in more effort to strengthen ties with Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. 

And sitting on an estimated 25 trillion cubic meters of natural gas finds in its waters, Israel has also found a new Mediterranean partner, Cyprus, with which it is inching toward exploration of an estimated 230 billion cubic meters of gas in Cypriot waters. It is the same Cyprus that is preparing to take over the European Union’s term presidency. It is the same EU which Turkey has isolated itself from, most recently due to an Armenian genocide denial bill. And it is the same bill under which a Swiss prosecutor is investigating EU Minister Egemen Bağış. 

But the brawl goes on. In December, an Israeli defense company, Elbit, canceled a sale of hi-tech surveillance systems to the Turkish Air Force. More recently, Turkey imposed tighter restrictions on Israeli cargo flights entering the Turkish airspace, leading to economic losses for Israeli companies. 

Most ironically, as the Turkish Parliament condemned the Khojaly Massacre, in which Armenian troops killed more than 600 Azeris in Khojaly, Nagorno-Karabakh, and more than 20,000 Turks, including Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, staged a colorful protest rally at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Israeli defense officials said Israeli Aerospace Industries had secured a $1.6 billion contract to sell drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. 

Now, this does not much fit into the famous slogan, “one nation, two states,” between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It also does not look like Israel has been terribly isolated because a major arms client, Turkey, no longer buys weaponry made in Israel. 

If the “Israeli defense officials” chose the timing to announce the lucrative Azeri deal, they must have a genuine sense of humor: A $1.6 billion handshake between Israel and “one nation-two states” Azerbaijan on the same day when the other of the (one nation) two states was exhibiting solidarity for the Azeri victims of Karabakh in demonstrations previously unseen!

If there is one region that is the ostensible reason for all this reshuffling of political balances in this part of the world, it is Gaza (see Ömer Çelik, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, who said that the “Gaza conflict is Turkey’s domestic issue”). If there should be another, it is Jerusalem.

Now we have Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay swinging his sword in the Battle for Jerusalem. A few days ago, Mr. Atalay said Jerusalem had to be freed of Israeli occupation if a lasting settlement was to reign in the Middle East. “Without the liberation of Jerusalem,” he said, “No real peace and stability can be achieved.” Speaking at the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem in Doha, Qatar, Mr. Atalay described Jerusalem as “a captive city in the hands of Israel.”

Ah, the hunt and the hunter…

February/29/2012

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