Turkey launched a plan Wednesday night (June 16) to campaign on all fronts for a worldwide boycott of Israel and decided to introduce sanctions leading to the severance of bilateral relations. Its pretext was the absence of a formal apology from Jerusalem for the naval commando raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara ("Blue Marmara"), which left 8 activists dead, and its rejection of an international inquiry of the incident.
In Washington, early Thursday morning (June 17), Democratic and Republican members of Congress announced at a press conference that there would be price to pay if Ankara continued its hate campaign against Israel and tight ties with Tehran.
Rep. Mike Pence, the third-highest ranking Republican, said: "There will be a cost if Turkey stays on its present heading of growing closer to Iran and more antagonistic to the state of Israel." Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel called Turkey's actions "disgraceful."
debkafile's sources in Washington note that while the House and the Senate are getting ready for an active response against Turkey for its deteriorating relations with Israel, the Obama administration is standing still, possibly tied down by friendship with the two contestants in Jerusalem and Ankara. The president may also be influenced by some of his closest aides, who are sympathetic to the policies pursued by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and support his aspirations in the Middle East and in the Muslim world.
The most prominent member of the pro-Erdogan faction ion the White House is the president's personal adviser on Muslim affairs, Dalia Mogahed, who does not share the conviction that the Turkish aid society, the IHH, is in fact a terrorist organization, as Israel declared Thursday, June 17 – although more than one European terrorist expert is of that opinion.
The way this declaration was aired by the Netanyahu government was harshly criticized by Israel's security and intelligence sources as too hesitant and uncertain to attract notice, debkafile's sources in Jerusalem report. It was not sourced to any defense ministry official and only appeared in a low spot on a local Channel 2 TV news bulletin.
"If Israel accuses an organization of terrorism, it should do so loud and clear," they said. "We must offer the kind of proof that reverberates strongly around the world. Instead, the information was released almost by stealth and therefore ignored by the international media."
In fact, debkafile's intelligence and counter-terror sources stress the inconspicuous news item was pretty sensational. By listing as terrorists the IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), a key component of Erdogan's pro-Islamic AKK government's support system, Israel henceforth defines the group as a target for Israel's covert and military operations and exposes its leaders to retaliation for continuing violence against Israel and its interests.
IHH activists were responsible for the violence aboard the Turkish ship leading the blockade-busting flotilla on May 31. Wednesday, IHH headquarters in Istanbul scheduled the launch of an even bigger flotilla for Gaza some time in July. Its new designation empowers Israel's covert agencies and navy to go for its members and ships – at sea and in Turkish ports.
Still hesitant, Israel has started hitting back at Turkey by escalating its military and intelligence responses to Erdogan's provocations.
The day before, the level of confrontation was ramped up by several notches in Ankara, when the Turkish Defense Industry Implementation Committee – SSIK, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Erdogan, decided to freeze 16 security and military agreements signed with Israel.
They include permission for Israel warplanes to use Turkish airspace and apply to intelligence-sharing arrangements and cooperation in combating terrorism and suspend the longstanding, close military and intelligence cooperation between Turkey and Israel.
The two erstwhile allies are left glaring at each other as antagonists, just one step short of declared enemies.
Ankara nonetheless left a narrow opening – whether to appease the military for its loss of a valued strategic partner or to tempt Israeli leaders to continue to delude themselves that Turkey is not a write-off.
Thursday morning, in a briefing to Turkish journalists, sources close to the Turkish prime minister and the SSK exhibited a very long list of the Israeli and Turkish military projects they had cancelled, including the purchase of advanced Israeli Arrow anti-missile missiles. However, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul commented: "Despite the fact that the decision on the shelving of military agreements had been left to the command of the Foreign Ministry, it would not be proper for the ruling administration to decide on the actions of military companies in both countries."
By this remark, the Turkish defense minister left a small gap for the Turkish government to review each contract separately and to decide whether to implement or revoke it depending on the needs of the Turkish army.