BEN-YISHAI: Strategic blow to Israel & Israel’s growing isolation October 17, 2009


For the time being, Turkey is no longer a dependable strategic ally of Israel
Part 1

by Ron Ben-Yishai  -  Ynet News -  14 October

The Israel Air Force’s capabilities will not be significantly undermined. Turkey is not the only region where the IAF can hold drills simulating various combat scenarios: Long-range missions, operations in unknown territory, and cooperation with foreign forces. Nonetheless, the decision to cancel Israel’s participation in NATO’s aerial drill in Turkey must serve as a glowing warning sign in respect to the strategic and economic implications that may follow our growing diplomatic isolation.

The Muslim Turkey was for many years a formidable and reliable ally of Israel. At this time, however, our strategic relations with it appear to be at a freefall. The deterioration started after the failure of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s effort to mediate between former Prime Minister Olmert and Syrian President Assad; it turned into a tsunami during and in the wake of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

The anger felt by Erdogan, the devout Muslim, towards Israel, and the tailwind he has been getting from the Turkish street prompted him to force his desires on the secular security establishment, whose heads are apparently still interested in ties with Israel. As a result, the openly visible as well as the more surreptitious security cooperation between the two states is increasingly being eroded.

New deals worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars offered by Israel’s defense industries to the Turkish army, as well as cooperation with Turkish colleagues, are being put on hold or are cancelled altogether. Only recently, officials in Ankara preferred to purchase a spy satellite from Italy, even though it is inferior in quality and more expensive than the Israeli product offered to Turkey.

However, the cancellation of Israel’s participation in the aerial drill is a truly negative shift, even though we are dealing with a demonstrative propaganda move meant to appease domestic public opinion; the decision does not undermine Israel’s security directly or immediately.

However, Turkey (which is interested in gaining acceptance into the European Union) would not have dared adopt such move in defiance of Washington and its European allies had its government not reached the conclusion that the benefit it can expect among regional states by shunning Israel is greater than the potential damage.

In order not to sabotage whatever is still left of the relationship, officials in Jerusalem prefer to maintain a low profile and refrain from a significant response. However, we must recognize the fact that Ankara, for the time being at least, is no longer a dependable strategic and security partner for Israel. This fact already constitutes a substantial blow to our national security because it erodes our deterrent power vis-Ă -vis Iran and Syria. Anyone who looks at the regional map can easily understand this.

Israel has indeed embarked on a process of seeking substitutes to the strategic advantages offered by the relationship with Turkey. However, this process is difficult and complex, and it is doubtful whether it will compensate us for the lost ties with Ankara.

Israel’s growing isolation

Our global status is gradually being eroded as international pressure grows
Part 2
What should concern us about the deterioration in our ties with Turkey is that the Turks are not alone.

In recent years, up until several months ago, Israel’s intelligence community estimated that the fears of Arab Sunni-majority states in the face of the Iranian-Shiite threat would prompt a process of rapprochement between them and Israel. This assessment appeared to materialize during the Second Lebanon War.  The positions adopted by most Sunni states, ranging from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, towards Hezbollah and its patrons in Tehran left little room for doubt as to where they stand.

However, then came Operation Case Lead in Gaza and changed the picture. The sights of carnage and ruin in the Strip, reinforced by the inciting commentary offered by Arab satellite networks, provoked unrest on the Muslim street. This unrest jeopardize the moderate regimes, which were forced to issue scathing condemnations over Israel’s actions and even adopt substantive steps against it, in line with Arab League demands.

The chances of tightening regional cooperation further declined after a Netanyahu-led rightist government was formed in Jerusalem, with Avigdor Lieberman becoming a major partner in it. The wave of hostility and media incitement grew in the face of Israel’s refusal to freeze construction in the settlements and the building in east Jerusalem, which were accompanied by provocative statements on the part of Netanyahu and his ministers.

All of the above curbed the Obama Administration’s nascent attempt to advance the resolution of the conflict by integrating it within the Saudi normalization initiative. Gulf States, which realized that the US Administration is failing to elicit Israeli concessions, responded (in line with popular pressure) by refusing to offer confidence-building gestures. The Goldstone Report on the Gaza war and the tensions in Jerusalem, which were fanned by radical Jewish and Muslim pyromaniacs, added more fuel to the fire.

The situation is not much better in the rest of the world. The developments reviewed here are gradually eroding Israel’s status not only in Asia, where most of the world’s Muslims reside.

We are seeing an anti-Israeli tide in Europe and in South America as well that at times gives rise to latent anti-Semitism. The list is long: Ranging from the media-covered conflict with Sweden over the “harvesting of body parts” affair (which was needlessly inflated by us) to the Norwegian decision to boycott the stocks of Elbit. It continued with the embargo imposed by Britain on the importation of spare parts to the Israeli Navy and the boycott on goods produced in the territories; finally, Honduras’ ousted president charged Israelis with using poisonous gases against him.

We are dealing with an accumulation of positions, declarations, and actions adopted by organizations and governments worldwide with growing intensity, in the aims of isolating Israel and thereby pressuring it to modify is political positions and force military restraint upon it. And this is the good case scenario.

According to the more negative scenario, they are trying to brand Israel as a “pariah state,” undermine the legitimacy of its very existence, and revoke its natural right and duty to defend its citizens – similarly to the manner in which the international community “took care” of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

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