'Turkey threats show lack of will to end Marmara crisis'

Officials: Turkish ultimatums, demands for apology show Ankara wants crisis to remain an "open sore" to be used as leverage against Israel.

July 26, 2011 20:03
2 minute read.
The 'Mavi Marmara' in port

Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

Foreign Ministry officials paid close attention on Tuesday to an op-ed in the Turkish press the day before that said if Israel did not apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey would go from Israel’s friend to opponent.

The sense in Jerusalem was that this piece reflected Turkish government policy, the officials said.

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Under the headline “Plan B for Israel: From losing a friend to gaining an opponent,” Barcin Yinanc wrote in Hurriyet that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent statement that Turkey had a “Plan B” for Israel in case it didn’t apologize meant that Turkey “is not willing to have the present situation with Israel continue like that. Time is not going to heal the wounds between the two countries.

Time will not make Turkey step down from its position, and Turkey is not going to play for time, in the expectation that ‘in time’ Israel will come to the point of apology.

“So, if some in the Israeli cabinet believe that by avoiding an apology the worse outcome will be the continuation of the current state of affairs, and – despite its disadvantages – it is a bearable cost; well Turkey is saying: ‘This is not the case.’ With Plan B, Turkey is saying that avoiding an apology will have a cost for Israel,” Yinanc wrote.

Erdogan’s hosting the annual meeting of Palestinian ambassadors in Istanbul last weekend, his threatening to travel to Gaza through Egypt, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s sharp condemnation of construction in the settlements earlier this week was a warning of what lies ahead, Yinanc wrote.

“For Israel the stakes are no longer about losing a valuable friend, but it is about gaining a new opponent,” she wrote.

Yinanc quoted Erdogan the day after the May 2010 Mavi Marmara raid as saying, “Turkey is not a country without strong roots, nor is it a tribal country. No one can challenge Turkey. No one should test Turkey’s patience. However valuable Turkey’s friendship is, that’s how violent its hostility is.”

One Foreign Ministry official said that this type of argument, which has been articulated in the past in various forms by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, only strengthens those in Jerusalem who believe that the Turks have no interest in putting an end to the incident once and for all, but rather want it to remain an “open sore” to be used as leverage against Israel in the future.

Threats and ultimatums, the official said, do not give Jerusalem the sense that Ankara is interested in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the issue.

The UN Palmer Commission investigating the Mavi Marmara incident was supposed to issue its findings on Wednesday, but will now not do so until the end of August, to give the sides time to come up with a formula to solve the crisis.

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