How Turkey removed the blockade of Gaza

How Turkey removed the blockade of Gaza

We would absolutely isolate Israel internationally. Israel was a terrorist state. “They” knew how well to kill. Israel was committing ethnic cleansing in Gaza. Israel would be held to account for its crimes in Gaza. Etc… 

Turkey’s leaders have countless times roared in thundering speeches that Turkey asked for an apology, compensation for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families and the removal of the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. 

In 2012 this columnist, quite by chance, noticed that when the big guns were roaring about the three conditions for normalization, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s official website had a different narrative: Two conditions instead of three. According to the section under “Israel,” “Turkey has been demanding an official apology and compensation from Israel in order to normalize diplomatic relations. Israel has not yet met these demands.” Whatever happened to the third condition? Why were the ministry’s conditions for normalization different from those of the foreign minister (or the prime minister)? Perhaps the ministry had the vision that the politicians did not have. 

In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for operational mistakes during the Israel Defense Forces’ raid on the Mavi Marmara – a sensible move. That met the first Turkish condition. After three years of negotiations, apparently, the compensation for the victims’ families - the second condition - has also been deleted from the list of remaining conditions. That was a rational outcome too: If there were operational mistakes that forced a head of government to apologize and led to the loss of lives, there has to be compensation to the victims’ families. 

What about the third condition? In its “Turkey’s condition for the removal of the naval blockade on Gaza” section, a modern, updated political dictionary will probably give the answer: See Turkey’s bark and bite. 

With or without Turkey’s customary bark-and-bite problem, the removal of this “inhuman” siege on “our poor Palestinian brothers in Gaza” is a good thing. Before the removal of the Gaza blockade Turkey was allowed to send any permissible humanitarian aid material into Gaza through Israel’s Ashdod port. Now after the removal of the blockade it will be allowed to send any permissible aid material into Gaza through Israel’s Ashdod port. Is that not so great?

And not just that. Turkish Islamists can now send aid flotillas to break the blockade and help their Gazan brothers – up to the point where they will be stopped by an Israeli military platform, hopefully not violently this time. Is that not wonderful? It is, although it is also curious why, except a dry thanks from Hamas the Gazans have not taken to the streets in huge numbers and celebrate the victory over the removal of the blockade. 

With or without the removal of the Gaza blockade, the Turkish-Israeli détente was a geopolitical rationality although it is exposed to the risk of future ententes and détentes. 

The détente will not mark a return to the days of friendship between old friends. It will, instead, be a fragile and hostile rapprochement. As I wrote recently for the Gatestone Institute, “In all probability, the ‘peace’ between Turkey and Israel will look like the definition of peace in Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary: ‘In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting’ - despite the backdrop for peace looking incredibly (but mischievously) convenient.”

All the same, upgrading Turkish shipments into Gaza from the more difficult and unwanted Ashdod port to the very convenient Ashdod port will be remembered as one of Turkey’s most spectacular diplomatic victories of this century. This victory was only bitterly shadowed by the ungrateful Gazans, who did not celebrate it with the cheers and joy it deserved.