Israeli policymakers still seem to live in the curious belief that relations with Turkey can still go back to the warm, comradely friendship reigning between them for decades – notwithstanding Ankara's dispatch of a pro-Hamas flotilla to break Israel's sea blockade on Gaza and the fallout from a deadly Israeli commando operation on May 31 to halt it.
The result is one misstep after another. Wednesday, June 30, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu let his infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer meet Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu for supposedly secret talks in Brussels to try and narrow the widening rift between Ankara and Jerusalem. The bid failed and the fallout was disastrous, threatening the stability of the government coalition when it turned out that foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman had been kept in the dark.
The illusion in Jerusalem that Israel can somehow retrieve the relationship is unaffected by Turkish Prime minister Recep Erdogan's relentless pursuit of hostile steps against the Jewish state at every turn.
On Monday, June 28, an unnamed Turkish diplomatic source said: "[Israeli] military planes are required to obtain over-flight permission before each flight. One military plane was denied permission immediately after the May 31 raid."
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Ankara and Washington report this comment drew no Israeli rejoinder – any more than three other episodes which demonstrated how the relationship was being dug progressively deeper into the mud.
1. The most serious occurred two weeks ago, on Wednesday, June 16: The Turkish prime minister chaired a meeting of the national Defense Industry Implementation Committee – SSIK and steered it toward a decision to freeze 16 security and military agreements signed with Israel, one of which opened Turkish air space to Israeli Air Force flights. Another of the suspended agreements provided for cooperation in intelligence and counterterrorism.
The next day, June 17, debkafile reported that this decision amounted to the snapping of the active military and intelligence cooperation links binding Turkey and Israel for decades. The two governments were now ranged on opposite sides of an abyss with Ankara just a step short of declaring Israel an enemy state.
But still, Jerusalem showed no sign it was troubled.
Israeli hopes of reconciliation with Turkey prove to be a pipe dream
Indeed, the Netanyahu government decided to send back to their posts the diplomats' families evacuated from Ankara after the Marmara incident. One Israeli official assured DEBKA-Net-Weekly that important sections of the Turkish government opposed the rupture with Israel and should be encouraged to stand up to their prime minister
2. Last week, on Wednesday, June 23, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confronted UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in New York and tried to make him understand that by pressing for an international committee of inquiry into the flotilla incident – even after Israel had established a public probe with international observers – he was encouraging anti-Israel forces to send out more such flotillas and causing Middle East tensions to shoot up needlessly.
Ban had no comment to offer on this warning.
Our sources in Ankara and New York say that the UN Secretary's non-response took into account that if he failed to take the lead in setting up a UN probe, Turkey, Iran, Syria and other Arab nations would go over his head and put it on the agenda of UN General Assembly, where a Goldstone-type inquiry of the kind that blasted Israel after the 2009 Gaza campaign was assured of an automatic majority.
The UN Secretary was also influenced by the Obama administration's noncommittal position on the subject.
Thursday, June 24, Barak's failure to sway Ban was followed by a similar setback in Washington.
In his conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he drew a blank when he asked for an Obama administration commitment to oppose a second international inquiry panel and vote with Israel at the UN Assembly. After all, said Barak, the State Department had originally praised the Israeli commission as meeting the UN Security Council's requirement for an "impartial, credible, transparent inquiry."
Erdogan flies in the face of Obama's wishes
Ankara took careful note of Israel's failed diplomatic efforts and decided Turkey could safely turn the heat up on the Jewish State without risk of international criticism.
3. Sunday, June 27, a Turkish source close to Prime Minister Erdogan's entourage at the G20 summit in Toronto leaked a report that he had now informed fellow heads of government that the Turkish-Israel friendship was dead and gone. Israel must pay the price Ankara had laid down for mending fences – an apology for the flotilla incident, compensation to the victims and an international committee of inquiry. But even then, relations would never be restored.
By escalating his quarrel with Jerusalem, the Turkish prime minister flew in the face of one of the key demands US president Barack Obama put before him at their abrasive encounter on the Toronto G20 summit sidelines on June 26 (more about which in a separate article in this issue.) Instead of giving up his campaign against the Jewish state, he has given the United States and Israel notice of his next four steps:
A final breakdown
A. To initiate a UN Assembly motion for establishing another international inquiry body to investigate the flotilla incident and fight Israel at every international forum.
Ankara has loaded the dice against Israel in advance by having the Turkish daily Zaman quote a charge by the MAZLUM-DER (The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples) on June 30, claiming that the nine Turks killed aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31 where shot from helicopters.
This is a bid to disprove the Israeli case which rests on the commandos' need to defend themselves against murderous thugs who mobbed them on the decks.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly: The MAZLUM-DER has a record of pro-extremist, anti-Israel activism.
B. To organize more flotillas to Gaza in cooperation with other Middle Eastern countries, including Iran and Lebanon.
C. To further demonstrate to the Turkish and Middle East public how far the intelligence and military ties between Ankara and Jerusalem have broken down and how close there are to being severed.
D. Israelis still operating in Turkey will be treated as enemies of Turkish national security.