Image via WikipediaWhat seemed to be half rhetoric and half serious has morphed into a threat that will have grave consequences arising from an inevitable "unfortunate incident" in the Eastern Med. Turkey raised the stakes considerably today when PM Erdoğan told al Jazeera that the Turkish navy will escort aid ships to Gaza.
On the same day President Gül - in Russia to attend the funeral ceremony for the Yaroslavl ice hockey team - stated that Israel was a burden to its allies and should negotiate an honourable peace.
These statements were quickly followed by the remarks of Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım that Israel’s raid last year on the aid flotilla was “no different” under international law than what Somali pirates are doing in the Gulf of Aden.
Prepare for the pundits to indulge in pleasant debates over the relative positions of Israel and Turkey, the type of intellectual massaging that produces no results. I happen to think that Turkey is pushing the matter dangerously far although I have no sympathy for the current Israeli government or its apartheid policies. A naval engagement would be tragic for the region and a lose - lose scenario for the participants.
The Turkish navy is a significant entity - it can insert 8 highly capable and modernized missile and helicopter equipped Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates as well as almost triple the number of submarines than the Israelis can field. If they toss in fast attack and missile boats they can overwhelm any Israeli attempt to block the aid convey unless Israel can establish air-superiority in which case would they actually attack Turkish surface ships.
Will Israel risk war with Turkey?