I’ve been trying to write about this mess for a while now and even for me I get long winded. So let me put the bottom line up front: we’re at risk of a confrontation of ideologies, and I don’t know how this nation will jump in reaction.
Turkey is led by a party and prime minister that are as close to a Party of Islam as Turkey will allow. They are anti-Israel on general principles.
Israel is led by a party and prime minister that are hard-line Zionists, with a history of zero compromise with or tolerance of any of their neighbors.
Israel has been trying to strangle Gaza since last year’s offensive. They wrecked the place, and since have only allowed a limited, controlled amount of goods into the area – not enough to rebuild, and depending on your source maybe not enough to sustain.
Activists – and let me note some are anti-Israel (and some even anti-semitic) – intended to shatter the blockade with a flotilla of supplies. I want to point to the fact they used a brilliant strategy where all paths were potential victories. If they got through, they won. If they got intercepted and taken to Israel instead, they won. If they were sunk by Israel, they won. What they got was a bonus – Israel seized them in international waters, and did so with a barely competent attack.
The part that makes this special is that two of the ships fly Turkish flags, and parts of the crews of those ships plus some of the people on board are Turkish citizens.
Turkey is now threatening to gather another supply flotilla and send it, this time escorted by Turkish warships.
I think that is a credible possibility given the current Turkish administration.
If they do so, Israel needs to figure out which tactical “win” will cause them the least strategic pain. By the way, that is NOT sink them or attempt to capture them. If that happens the Turkish ships will engage Israeli forces, and we have a special sort of conflict.
Start with the fact the Turkish military is not incompetent. Add to this that it’s a NATO nation and can (and will – they’ve already started) request NATO support in response to an attack.
If Turkey and Israel start shooting at each other, I have no idea which way we’ll jump. Both sides will insist – by long-standing treaty – that we get involved.
The best thing is to ratchet this down, but I’m not sure we can do that.