Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is The Downward Spiral in Turkish-Israeli Relations Terminal?

Turkish Ambassador forced by Israelis to sit in kid's chair - January, 2010
Steven A. Cook, writing at CNN's global public square niche:
Last Friday, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, announced what had long been coming - the end of Turkey-Israel relations.  Although it is not a total breach, Israel’s ambassador in Ankara is no longer welcome there and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) mission in Turkey was terminated.  All official business will now be conducted at the level of second secretary, which in the military is equivalent to a major or Lieutenant Colonel.  The foreign minister also warned that the Turkish Navy would defend the freedom of navigation in the international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, conjuring images of a naval confrontation between the Israelis and the Turks. [emphases added]
Akiva Eldar, writing at Haaretz, sees the coming together of several trends, in ways disadvantageous to the Israeli state:
With all due respect to Turkey (we haven't shown any; remember the low-chair affair ), the Israeli people will survive even without an ambassador and deputy ambassador in Ankara. No disaster will happen if the United Nations we so disparage throws the Palestinians a bone and a few young men march toward the settlements. Our highly trained soldiers will charge, the settlers' dogs will jump them and all will be well.

Right? Wrong. The crisis in relations with Turkey is a red alert of the attacks we're in for on the diplomatic, security and economic fronts. It will affect the lives of 450,000 protesters and many more people who demanded social justice from their living room couches.

Government spokesmen went from TV studio to TV studio over the weekend to explain that the avalanche between Ankara and Jerusalem has nothing at all to do with the apology affair, but rather with the type of regime Turkey has. That could be. But if the Netanyahu government had thawed the negotiations on the end of the occupation and prevented the crisis that led the Palestinians to the United Nations, Turkey might not have had to make such a major issue out of the flotilla.

When Turkey called its ambassador home, it showed the way for the ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan in Israel, and that's just the beginning. After the United Nations fulfills the Palestinians' request for a state, the Palestinians won't be able to consider themselves a temporary entity called the "Palestinian Authority." How will the French react to Israel's refusal to allow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return from an official visit to Paris with a passport from independent Palestine? [emphases added]
Jason Ditz, writing at Antiwar.com, cites Israeli general, Eyal Eisenberg as being profoundly pessimistic:
In a speech which repeatedly cited the pro-democracy protests across the Middle East as a catalyst, Israeli Major General Eyal Eisenberg has predicted an “all out” regional war with multiple actors using weapons of mass destruction.

The speech was made at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and reiterates the assorted Israeli gripes about the region, predicting the Egyptian military will lose control of the Sinai Peninsula and noting that relations with Turkey “aren’t at their best.
Eldar's list of countries pushing back against Israel's hyper aggressive international policies neglected Lebanon.  They are pushing too:
BEIRUT: Lebanon warned the United Nations on Monday that Israel's proposed sea border threatens peace and security, as tensions rise between the neighbours over offshore oil and gas reserves.

In a letter sent to secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, which was drafted and mistakenly leaked to the media in August, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour argues that the geographic coordinates that Israel submitted to the U.N. demarcating its maritime borders violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and economic rights

“[Israel’s demarcation violates Lebanon’s] regional waters and economic zone and misappropriates around 860 square kilometers, consequently placing international peace and security in danger,” Mansour said in his letter.

“[Mansour] asks the secretary-general of the United Nations to take all measures it deems appropriate to avoid any conflict,” the letter said.

In July, the head of Parliament’s Public Works, Transport, Energy and Water Committee said Lebanon might be forced to file a complaint against Israel to the U.N. Security Council under its Chapter 7, which sets out the council’s powers to maintain peace.

Israel and Lebanon both lay claim to a disputed area that spans some 860 square kilometers off the coast between the two countries and is said to be rich in gas and oil resources.
Then there is the rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt:
CAIRO: Egypt has walled off Israel's embassy in Cairo after tensions between the two countries sparked a series of angry protests that reached a climax last month when a demonstrator scaled the building and removed the Israeli flag.

As work began on the wall a few days ago, many Egyptians gathered nearby to show their displeasure. Some sprayed "The people want the fall of the wall" onto its smooth concrete.

Egyptian officials said the mainly concrete barrier, roughly 2 1/2 metres (8 feet) high, was to protect other residents of the high-rise embassy building, not the Israeli mission.

"The goal ... is to protect the lower floors of the building and prevent tensions between protesters and residents," daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted local governor Ali Abdel-Rahman as saying.

Egypt's relations with Israel have cooled since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch U.S. ally, in a popular uprising in February.

A diplomatic row broke out last month when five Egyptian security personnel were shot dead on the border as Israeli troops repelled militants who killed eight Israelis.

Egypt threatened briefly to withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv, said the deaths of the Egyptians breached its 1979 peace treaty with the Jewish state and demanded a joint inquiry.
To top it off, late September will see the Palestinian Authority's approach to the United Nations General Assembly, as they seek the same status enjoyed by The Vatican. firedoglake's David Dayen:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally announced that Palestine will seek recognition as an official state from the United Nations General Assembly this month, setting up a major battle that both Israel and the United States hoped to avoid. But Abbas wanted to also negotiate a peace deal with Israel on a parallel track, while also seeking UN membership.

“Our first, second and third priority is negotiations,” he said. “There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations.”

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said at a separate event that a Palestinian bid for recognition by the United Nations would “set back peace, and might set it back for years.” Israeli officials argue that a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state could complicate the prospect of talks beyond salvation.

Each side says it wants direct talks and peace but that the other side does not.

That last sentence sort of encapsulates the entire 63-year history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Dayen concludes:
Israeli officials are on the record saying they expected the General Assembly approach to succeed, and that most countries would vote for Palestinian statehood. The US will undoubtedly try to persuade countries to vote against statehood or abstain.

I don’t see another option for the Palestinians to change the dynamic where they are called to negotiate while Israel keeps planting settlers in their homeland, making it more difficult to determine borders and arrive at a solution. The international community needs to make a choice on the occupation and whether they will lend their support. The Administration has intimated that it’s nothing more than grandstanding. I don’t know what other recourse the Palestinians have. [emphasis added]
Over 140 countries are expected to support the upgrade of Palestinian status at the UN.  US and Israeli actions to change this seem doomed:
[A Palestinian] status upgrade, by contrast, requires merely a majority in the General Assembly, where passage would be nearly as certain (yesterday, a Palestinian negotiator  predicted 140 countries would vote for statehood in the G.A., which has 193 member-states).
These 140 or so countries, include most or all of Scandinavia, most of Latin America, the Muslim world, much of sub-Saharan Africa, and others.

As countries from around the world send their top foreign policy or governmental figures to New York City for the annual meetup, enormous pressure will be exerted by the US State Department and White House, by the Israelis and by the traditional media, to thwart the Palestinian effort one way or another.  Dennis Ross is working overtime, but has been excluded from a meeting today that probably will be the last between Palestinian Authority representatives and the US team before final preparations for the UN bid inevitably take control of momentum:
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians on Tuesday said they would not give in to American pressure to drop their bid for statehood at the United Nations, taking a tough position ahead of a meeting with a senior U.S. delegation.

Two senior White House envoys, David Hale and Dennis Ross, arrived in the region on Tuesday for talks with Israel and Palestinian officials. The U.S. has been trying to persuade the Palestinians to drop their plan to ask the U.N. this month to approve their independence and instead resume peace talks with Israel.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said there was little the Americans could do to change the Palestinians' plans.

"We are going to the United Nations, regardless of objections or pressure," he said. Abbas is expected to meet with Hale on Wednesday. Ross, who is viewed by the Palestinians as pro-Israel, was not scheduled to attend the meeting.
This downward spiral in relations with neighboring countries began with the 2006 Lebanon invasion:

1.  The Israelis have not paid for the damages of the gratuitous and environmentally devastating Jiyeh Power Station oil spill - larger than that of the Exxon Valdez.  The damages extended up from central Lebanon, to Syria and Turkey, even effecting the coast of Cyprus.

2.  Millions of cluster bomblets, left by the Israelis in southern Lebanon, still claim lives.

3.  Operation Cast Lead led many Europeans to reconsider any support of Israel in the future.  As Norman Finkelstein titled his book about the senseless operation, "this time we went too far."

4.  The heavy-handed and totally unnecessary boarding of MV Mavi Marmara has come up again, and is the final straw between Israel and Turkey.  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been forced by coalition politics there to deal with this situation in a remarkably irrational way, reminding me once more to paraphrase the Israeli canard about Palestinians - the Israeli government never seems to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

The upcoming vote in the UN has already been predicted to be so profoundly game changing that the West Bank will erupt into extreme violence, a Third Intifada, far worse than its two predecessors.  Turkey and Egypt will not stand aside during this civil disturbance, as they have in the past, no matter how the US pleads to them.  West Bank colonial settlers are already recruiting gunmen in Europe, through the JDL:
TRAVEL militant solidarity in the West Bank
Posted September 3, 2011 by Administrator

The JDL is organizing 19 to 25 September, a trip solidarity with our Israeli brothers living on the land of our ancestors Judea and Samaria.

This trip is for militants with military experience: The aim of this expedition is to lend a hand to our brothers face the aggression Palestinian occupants and thus enhance the security features of Jewish cities in Judea and Samaria. [emphasis added]
Wikileaks has uncovered evidence that the Israeli military will deal with the predicted large post-UN vote peaceful demonstrations, by assassinating one Palestinian Gandhi after another:
The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.

This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground.
JDL recruiting foreign "militants with military experience,"  settlers being trained in large unit paramilitary tactics, trained guard dogs being imported and distributed (and heavily promoted on Israeli TV - see the link directly above).

All of this in an environment when Turks and Egyptians are looking for opportunities to get back at Israel for decades of slights, petty degradations and very real, expensive damages.

I see no prospect of Turkish-Israeli relations going uphill any time soon.

cross-posted at MyFiredoglake

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