Two earlier posts on Israel (2/22/11) and Turkey (5/31/11) made the case to the best of my ability concerning the potential impact on U.S. national security of the policies of those two increasingly querulous and seemingly irreconcilable American allies. In short, it seems that American leaders of all stripes are forever condemned to support or at best to ignore outrageous Israeli policies and actions because of the influence and power of a domestic constituency, while Turkey offers the best, and perhaps only, hope of ending Arab-Israeli enmity and demonstrating that Islam can peacefully co-exist with both democracy and the West.
Recent events have not advanced U.S. interests. Following its review of the bloody Israeli interception on the high seas in May 2010 of a Turkish-flagged flotilla carrying non-military goods to Gaza, a UN panel has revealed its findings: “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.” This judgment on the legality of the Israeli action, which requires further examination, was tempered only in part by the panel’s finding that the Israeli force acted in ways that were excessive, unreasonable, unacceptable, and abusive (terms used in the report).
Much has been written about the dispute as to whether the Israeli expression of “regret” meets the Turkish demand for an apology for the killing of Turks aboard the ship boarded by Israeli forces. The Turks, in any case, say not. The panel’s report also includes the following indictment: “At least one of those killed, Furkan Dogan, was shot at extremely close range. Mr. Dogan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect…No evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons.” Dogan, nineteen- years-old at the time of his slaughter, was an American citizen by birth. Did the U.S. demand or receive an apology from the executioners? If so, it was done on the sly, with both President Barack Obama and his sworn enemies in and out of Washington choosing cowardice and disgrace over honor and certain confrontation with the untouchable Israeli Lobby.
In the end, of course, these considerations pale next to fast-moving events on the ground (and in the water) that pose very real threats to American interests. Turkey has expelled the Israeli Ambassador and his deputy and announced that its warships may increase “surveillance” in the Eastern Mediterraneanand even accompany any future Gaza-bound vessel. And, it has been reported that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, having just put military and economic relations with Israel on hold, will conclude a military and economic pact with Egypt when he visits Cairo next week – the first such visit in fifteen years. Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly may vote overwhelmingly in favor of recognition of a Palestinian State later this month, isolating the U.S. yet further and decreasing its influence in the Middle Eastand the broader Muslim world in general.
How will the prospect of the 2012 American elections affect Obama’s reaction to this situation, and how will the opposition respond – again, given the power of the Lobby? Might Iran creep into the equation as American neo-cons and Israel’s champions trumpet a nuclear threat from that quarter? Will Turkey’s surrender of its mediating role in the region strengthen European objections to its accession to the European Union? Are U.S.- European relations themselves in play?
The State Department’s statement of September 6 is encouraging in that it indicates very real, albeit tardy and frantic, concern in Washington over the Israeli-Turkish dilemma. American diplomats are reportedly working overtime to head off a final break between these two allies (and to forestall any UNGA vote), and we can only hope they will succeed. National security is at stake.
By Alan Berlind.