The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
Ayear after the failure of the Turkish flotilla to breach the Gaza blockade and
the ensuing violence, Israel may face a similar attempt again. But recent
developments in the region mean that a new flotilla may be met with different
reactions on both sides of the Mediterranean.
FOUR MAJOR developments
over the past year have decreased the political threat posed by a new
The first is the simple fact that, despite much publicity and
several announcements, no flotilla has sailed since the first was blocked
exactly a year ago on May 31.
While the organizers’ rhetoric remains as
viciously anti-Israel as before, the number of volunteers actually willing to
brave the IDF’s reaction was so far much smaller than the IHH hoped for and not
enough for an impressive show of force. The IDF had a year to analyze and learn
lessons from the last incident, in which nine people died, and prepare new and
innovative methods to stop any ship. The novelty factor of such a flotilla is
now smaller since it lost the surprise effect, while doomsday prophesies about
adverse world reactions to Israel’s stopping of the flotilla quickly faded
against the dramatic pictures from Tahrir Square and the streets of
The second development is Turkey’s declining status in the Arab
world as a result of the Arab Spring revolutions. Turkey’s leaders sought
to ally themselves with the more extremist elements in the Muslim world,
especially Iran. However, the populations of many Muslim countries reject
extremism and demonstrate instead for more freedom, democracy and
The ousting of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments, NATO’s
attacks on Libya and the riots in Syria could bring similar demonstrations in
Turkey against its radicalizing regime. By encouraging the first flotilla,
Turkish authorities may have bitten off more than they could chew: While
official European and American political reactions were mild, the Turkish
economy is deteriorating as more firms are reluctant to invest in a country now
perceived as increasingly radical and unpredictable.
deficit with the European Union, its largest trade partner, more than doubled in
the previous year, from 8 billion to over 19 billion euros, while inflation
soared to almost 9 percent.
European leaders fear that further
radicalization in Turkey could bring similar radicalization of the large Turkish
minorities inside the EU, especially in Germany, and discreetly signal Ankara of
the need to moderate its anti-Israel rhetoric.
The third development is
the expanding strategic alliance between Israel and Greece. Under previous
governments, Greece traditionally took a pro-Palestinian line, but this position
is rejected by a younger generation of Greeks who view Israel, with its economic
success and flourishing hi-tech industries, as an example to follow.
the past two years, Greece and Israel came closer than ever before, with
cooperation extending from intelligence and security to the scientific and
economic fields. Greek society suffers greatly under a massive austerity plan,
higher taxes and a bureaucracy which throttles innovation and economic
expansion. Sick of their ailing economy and IMF meddling, many Greeks see the
Israeli model of economic growth as the one to emulate. While the Greek-Israeli
alliance is not aimed specifically against Turkey, it does present Ankara with a
new variable in its relations with Israel.
The fourth development is the
recent official opening of the Gaza-Egypt border. Contrary to initial
Israeli reactions, this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. While
the opening of the border has no security significance, since heavy weapons and
Hamas activists are regularly moved through tunnels under the border, it
undermines the main ideological argument of the flotilla planners that Gaza is
under siege. The border crossing will serve as a societal “safety valve” to
allow ordinary Palestinians to visit families or travel for business abroad. In
addition, the spirit of democracy and peaceful revolution may seep into Gaza
from other Arab capitals.
The Israeli government should bear these
developments in mind when formulating its reactions to a new
The writer is deputy head of the political studies department
at Bar-Ilan University and senior research fellow at the BESA Center for
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>