Tactical Failure of Turkish Policy on Mavi Marmara Crises

Published by Huffington Post UK Blog, 3 September 2011

No matter what angle one looks at, it is undeniable that Turkey has every right to continue to demand an apology for the killing of her citizens, just as every country in the world would and should do in such an incident. Yet, Turkey has committed a tactical mistake in the process of achieving an apology.

With hindsight, it is clear that the build up to the killing of Turkish citizens on board the doomed boat is not that black and white. Before the boat sailed, both Turkey and Israel could have found a way of stopping or handling it, but both parties failed to do so and allowed things to reach to their nadir.

While vast majority of the people on the boat were peace activists, there was a small group of mujahiddeen-wannabes ready to 'retaliate'. The Israeli forces not only failed dramatically in the operational sense, but their wrong approach of trying to stop the boat triggered retaliation and not surprisingly use of brutal military force.

Israel had a brief window of opportunity to stop escalation of the issue. It could have been enough to state that operation went wrong and that its sorry for loss of life but still insist that the boats should not have been there, which would have defused the situation. AKP had no chance but to stand boldly against Israel and demand an apology as the entire Turkish public demanded so. Both parties were then engulfed in copying each other in harsher and bolder stands with growing myopia of the implications of their mimetic bravado for the entire Middle East.

Turkey could have made an apology from Israel a lot more possible if the AKP government has not included the lifting of Gaza blockade to its three fold demand from Israel, two of which asked for apology and reparations for the murdered citizens. However, the issue of Gaza and the issue of dead citizens are not inherently linked. It would have been so if those murdered were Palestinian dwellers of Gaza who were killed during an attempt to bring banned supplies to Gaza.

While Turkey might have a stand on Gaza and over all Israel-Palestine issues, by combining it with its rightful demand for an apology for its citizens, it undermined its own cause. The Gaza blockade emerged from Israel's policy, backed by all of the major stakeholders, to isolate and weaken Hamas. Thus, a demand for the lifting of blockade bumps into a much more complicated and long term tension involving many powerful stakeholders and Israeli public.

Unwittingly, Turkey has made the loss of its citizens a political tool for a larger policy on Israel. This only caused the hardened voices in Israel to mute others that see friendship with Turkey to be too important to loose. That is why even though the UN report clearly states the military failures and serious human rights abuses committed by Israel, it's dubious claims on the legality of the blockade was seen as a victory and a reason to never apologize to Turkey. In contrast, Egypt was able to get a quick and swift apology from Israel for the killing of its troops.

In diplomacy, one has to develop a game plan for the desired achievement. Turkey seems to have miscalculated and gambled far more than would have been possible to achieve. As for Israel, it once again found joy in being singled out by the world and loosing one more friend in such a critical conjuncture without ever realizing the long term costs of a temporary sense of pride and martyrdom.

So the winner stands alone now; a discredited UN commissioned report and its politically charged writers, unsuccessful outcomes of the Turkish gamble, delusional arrogance of Israeli foreign ministry under the Netanyahu government. The dead are still dead, their families are still mourning and sadly, many more will join their ranks.