x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Gaza's ripple effect

Turkey's hardened tone against Israel, two years after the Mavi Marmama incident, reminds the world that the real issue is the plight of the Palestinians.

Two years ago today, Israeli commandoes boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of an aid flotilla headed to Gaza, killing nine of the 40 activists on board. The relationship between Israel and Turkey, previously close regional allies, has never recovered.

Even before the second anniversary of the attack, Turkey had announced that it was breaking off all high level diplomatic relations with its neighbour, kicked out Israel's ambassador to Ankara and terminated the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) mission in Turkey. More seriously, Turkey now insists that its navy would not hesitate to engage the Israelis in international waters if it felt that its freedoms were being threatened.

To be sure, the deteriorating relationship is in part, symbolically at least, down to Israel's refusal to apologise for its attack on the aid flotilla. But more pertinent is Israel's blockade of Gaza, settlement expansion in the West Bank and general mistreatment of Palestinians. Condemning such policies plays well for Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan at home.

Benjamin Netanyahu's government shows no signs of backing down in any of its standoffs in the Middle East. A serious reconsideration of its belligerent stance towards Ankara, and its treatment of the Palestinians, would have benefits for Arabs under occupation and do much to improve stability throughout the region.