'Ultimate nightmare' for Israeli diplomacy, says Liel

Ex-envoy to Turkey predicts months of diplomatic turmoil.

How grave do you believe the diplomatic fallout from the violence aboard the flotilla will prove for Israel?
This is the ultimate nightmare for Israeli diplomacy. And it is taking place against the background of growing international criticism of Israel. It’s just a few days since 189 nations voted unanimously against us on the issue of nuclear weapons (at the conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference), and after 18 months of criticism over “excessive use of force” in Operation Cast Lead. After Goldstone. With the broadcast of a TV series in the Muslim world depicting IDF soldiers as trigger-happy.
How will this incident exacerbate that?
It will increase our isolation. I very much hope we’ll be able to keep our diplomatic relations with Turkey alive. Obviously, there is a danger that won’t be possible. I hope we can keep the Jordanian ambassador here. We’ll face six months of diplomatic storms, of UN decisions against us, unless, that is, there is real progress on the diplomatic front with the Palestinians.
With the Palestinians? Will the talks with the Palestinians even continue?
It’s going to be complex. At this stage, we don’t even know if there are Palestinians among the dead. Plainly, Hamas is the big winner here. Hamas will push [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to halt the talks.
What are the imperatives for Israel right now?
First, we need to bring the crisis to an end wisely. We have lots ofvery good connections with Turkish diplomats and generals. It is stillpossible to work with them, even though the Turkish government wasbehind this flotilla to some extent. In one form or another, a crisislike this has been looming for months. We didn’t know if it would beover unilateral UN support for a Palestinian state, or missiles toHizbullah or a flotilla to Gaza. But the government must see a redlight. In its current global situation, Israel can’t win in thediplomatic and media forums without movement on the grounddiplomatically with either Syria or the Palestinians.
Do you fear an escalation of violence now?
In Turkey, this is a whole new situation. The official warning fromhere against Israelis traveling there is justified. We shouldtemporarily bring home the diplomats’ families if not the diplomatsthemselves. I’m worried about the potential for harm to come toIsraelis and Jews in Turkey.
Alon Liel is a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry.