The Turks say they plan to challenge Israel over its naval blockade of Gaza. Turkish officials claim they will take legal, diplomatic, as well as military action to force an Israeli retreat from its refusal to permit ships from bringing aid to the Israeli- occupied territory.
The Turks are mad as hell about the Israeli refusal to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens during the IDF assault on the Mavi Marmara in 2010. They also are angered by the UN report which characterized the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza as legal and justifiable based on the Israeli right of self-defense. Ironically, the report was intended to be a vehicle to assist Israel and Turkey in mending their strained relations, but instead has become the immediate cause of a serious diplomatic breach.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey will take the case of the legality of the Gaza blockade to the International Court of Justice. The Minister also warned that Israel risks alienating Arab nations by its refusal to apologize for the flotilla tragedy.
Davutoglu charged that Israel had leaked the report, which he said is just the latest chapter in a long line of “press manipulations.”
Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and has notified the Israeli ambassador that he will be expelled. In addition, the Turkish government has frozen military cooperation with the Jewish state.
The Hurriyet Daily News quoted a government official saying, “The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their bullying practices against civilian vessels.” The newspaper has also reported that the Turkish navy would increase its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and that Turkish ships would escort civilian boats to Gaza.
The prospect of the Turks actually confronting the Israeli navy off the shores of Gaza seems remote, but a threat such as this indicates the current level of animosity between the two nations.
Although a naval clash near the shores of Gaza appears unlikely, a dramatic diplomatic battle could be joined if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Gaza as planned. A Turkish official said the trip’s “primary purpose is to draw the world’s attention to what is going on in Gaza and to push the international community to end the unfair embargo imposed by Israel.”