Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post and Barry Rubin at PJM both address the attempt by a coterie of pro-Palestinian activists and Turkish radical Islamists to run Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, ostensibly to deliver aid. Krauthammer concentrates on Israel while Rubin looks at the incident from the standpoint of our NATO ally - and a one time ally of Israel - Turkey. Robert Pollock at the WSJ documents Turkey's descent into an radical Islam. This from Dr. Krauthammer:
The world is outraged at Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey denounces its illegality, inhumanity, barbarity, etc. The usual U.N. suspects, Third World and European, join in. The Obama administration dithers.
But as Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes, the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel -- a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets. . . .
Oh, but weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel's offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza -- as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.
Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel's inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.
Israel has already twice intercepted ships laden with Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah and Gaza. What country would allow that?
But even more important, why did Israel even have to resort to blockade? Because, blockade is Israel's fallback as the world systematically de-legitimizes its traditional ways of defending itself -- forward and active defense. . . .
. . . The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense. Why, just last week, the Obama administration joined the jackals, and reversed four decades of U.S. practice, by signing onto a consensus document that singles out Israel's possession of nuclear weapons -- thus de-legitimizing Israel's very last line of defense: deterrence.
The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million -- that number again -- hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists -- Iranian in particular -- openly prepare a more final solution.
And looking at this issue from Turkey's perspective, this from Mr. Rubin:
Israel-Turkey relations have gone from alliance to the verge of war because the West pretended an Islamist government could be benign.
The foolish think the breakdown is due to the recent Gaza flotilla; the naïve, who pass for the sophisticated experts, attribute the collapse to the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Such conclusions are totally misleading. The relationship breakdown was already clear — and in private every Israeli expert dealing seriously with Turkey said so — well over two years ago: the cause was the election in Turkey of an Islamist government. . . .
When the Turkish armed forces were an important part of the regime, they saw Israel as a good source for military equipment and an ally against Islamists and radical Arab regimes. But once the army was to be suppressed, its wishes were a matter of no concern. Depriving it of foreign allies was a goal of the AK Party government.
When Turkey thought it needed Israel as a way to maintain good relations with the United States, the alliance was valuable. But once it was clear that U.S. policy would accept the AK — and was none too fond of Israel — that reason for the alliance also dissolved. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced:
It’s Israel that is the principal threat to regional peace.
At first, this outcome was not so obvious. The AK Party won its first election by only a narrow margin. To keep the United States and EU happy, to keep the Turkish army happy, and to cover up its Islamist sympathies, the new regime was cautious over relations with Israel. Keeping them going served as “proof” of Turkey’s moderation.
Yet as the AK majorities in elections rose, the government became more confident. No longer did it stress that it was a center-right party with family values. The regime steadily weakened the army, using EU demands for civilian power. As it repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy, the AK’s arrogance and its willingness to throw off its mask grew steadily.
And then, on top of that, the regime saw that the United States would not criticize it, not press it, not even notice what the Turkish government was doing. President Barack Obama came to Turkey and praised the regime as a model of moderate Muslim democracy. Former President Bill Clinton appeared in Istanbul, and in response to questions asked by an AK Party supporter, was manipulated into virtually endorsing the regime’s program without realizing it.
Earlier this year, the situation became even more absurd as Turkey moved ever closer to becoming the third state to join the Iran-Syria bloc. Syria’s state-controlled newspaper and Iranian President Ahmadinejad openly referred to Turkey’s membership in their alliance, and no one in Washington even noticed what was happening. Even when, in May, Turkish policy stabbed the United States in the back by helping Iran launch a sanctions-avoidance plan, the Obama administration barely stirred.
A few weeks ago, the Turkish prime minister said that Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons, that he regards President Ahmadinejad as a friend, and that even if Iran were building nuclear bombs it has a right to do so. And still no one in Washington noticed. . . .
The current Turkish government hates Israel because it is an Islamist regime.
Note who its friends are: It cares nothing for the Lebanese people; it only backs Hezbollah. It never has a kind word for the Palestinian Authority or Fatah; the Turkish government’s friend is Hamas.
Lately for the first time, the AK government began to run into domestic problems. The poor status of the economy, the growing discontent of many Turks with creeping Islamism in the society, and the election — for the first time — of a popular leader for the opposition party began to give hope that next year’s elections might bring down the regime. Indeed, polls showed the AK sinking into or very close to second place. With the army neutered, elections are the only hope of getting Turkey off the road to Islamism. . . .
The question now becomes: how much can Turkey sabotage U.S. interests before U.S.-Turkish relations go the same way? The defection of Turkey to the other side would be the biggest strategic shift in the Middle East since the Iranian revolution three decades ago.
Pretending that this isn’t happening will not change it.
Robert Pollock, writing at the WSJ, documents the sharp move towards the Islamist camp that Turkey's PM Erodogan has led. This from Mr. Pollock:
. . . To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.
For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews. The newspaper Yeni Safak, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's daily read, claimed that Americans were tossing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates that local mullahs had issued a fatwa ordering residents not to eat the fish. The same paper repeatedly claimed that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Fallujah. And it reported that Israeli soldiers had been deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and that U.S. forces were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqis for sale on the U.S. "organ market."
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has distanced himself from allies such as the U.S. and curried favor with the likes of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The secular Hurriyet newspaper, meanwhile, accused Israeli soldiers of assassinating Turkish security personnel in Mosul and said the U.S. was starting an occupation of (Muslim) Indonesia under the guise of humanitarian assistance. Then U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman actually felt the need to organize a conference call to explain to the Turkish media that secret U.S. nuclear testing did not cause the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. One of the craziest theories circulating in Ankara was that the U.S. was colonizing the Middle East because its scientists were aware of an impending asteroid strike on North America.
The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called "Valley of the Wolves," which I saw in 2006 at a mall in Ankara. My poor Turkish was little barrier to understanding. The body parts of dead Iraqis could be clearly seen being placed into crates marked New York and Tel Aviv. It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich. . . .
[PM Erodogan] and his party have traded on America and Israel hatred ever since. There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey's recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.
Sadly, Turkey has had no credible opposition since its corrupt secular parties lost to Mr. Erdogan in 2002. The Ataturk-inspired People's Republican Party has just thrown off one leader who was constantly railing about CIA plots for another who wants to expand state spending as government coffers collapse everywhere else in the word.
. . . Prime Minister Erdogan was one of the first world leaders to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government in Gaza. And now he is upping the rhetoric after provoking Israel on Hamas's behalf. It is Israel, he says, that has shocked "the conscience of humanity." Foreign Minister Davutoglu is challenging the U.S: "We expect full solidarity with us. It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong."
Please. Good leaders work to defuse tensions in situations like this, not to escalate them. No American should be deceived as to the true motives of these men: They are demagogues appealing to the worst elements in their own country and the broader Middle East.
The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"—the Western-oriented Turkey, that is—is the Turks did. The outstanding question is how much damage they'll do to regional peace going forward.