The upcoming vision to Egypt by Turkey’s prime minister has raised the possibility that Israel may become profoundly isolated if the two nations that have been among its strongest supporters in the region make common cause against it.
Thousands of Egyptians stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Friday, protesting the death of five Egyptian policemen in an incident last month on the border with Israel. A sixth policeman has since died of his injuries.
At the same time, a United Nations report criticizing Israel for using excessive force during a raid last year a Gaza aid flotilla, in which several Turkish citizens were killed, has prompted Turkey to expel the Israeli ambassador and threaten to send warships to escort any vessels that attempt to bread Israel’s blockade of Gaza in the future.
In the wake of these developments, the British paper The Guardian warned in an editorial Sunday that “if post-revolutionary Egypt and an economically resurgent Turkey make common cause against their former common ally – and there is every indication that they will – Israel’s isolation in the region will be profound.”
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu now faces a real choice,” the editorial urges. “He must realise that humiliating Turkey by refusing to apologise for the deaths on the Mavi Marmara was a colossal error. The strategic consequences for Israel of a hostile Turkish-Egyptian alliance could last years. … Israel needs to repair relations with Turkey and do it quickly.”
The Guardian also points to a recent incident in which Israeli passengers on Turkish Airlines were subjected to “detention and intrusive body searches upon their arrival at Istanbul airport” as retailiation for what the Israeli paper Haaretz described as the “stringent, overbearing and humiliating” security checks routinely imposed on Muslim travelers entering Israel.
Haaretz described the actions of Istanbul airport officials as “an additional and unnecessary chapter in the friction between Turkey and Israel,” but it also suggested in its headline, “Perhaps Israelis need humiliation to respect others.”
At the same time, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdon Lieberman has allegedly proposed punishing Turkey by supporting the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party and possibily even supplying it with weapons. Although sources in the Foreign Ministry insisted that their actual recommendation was to avoid any escalation of tensions, the Turkish foreign minister responded by saying, “No one will be able to blackmail us. … We hope that Israel’s denial will also be accompanied by actions.”
“[Netanyahu} can either prepare for another war,” the Guardian editorial concludes, “or he can accept that Israel can no longer impose its will on hostile and weaker neighbours. For one thing, the neighbours are growing stronger.”