News   /   Palestine   /   Turkey

Turkey-Israel deal is a deceit to regulate Gaza blockade

A cartoon by Brazilian freelance political cartoonist Carlos Latuff shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan using Palestine to get sympathy of his voters while keeping Turkey's ties with Israel. (Wikimedia)

With the sun falling into the Mediterranean Sea, it felt like a “pleasant cruise” to Nader El Sakka on-board the MV Mavi Marmara. The “euphoric” sentiment did not last long, however, as Captain Mahmut Tural spotted a number of vessels on the radar of the ship.

"Negative. Our destination is Gaza," said the captain assertively when asked to change course by the Israeli regime’s naval forces tasked with keeping the Gaza blockade in place.

With stun grenades and teargas raining and Israeli soldiers landing on the deck hours later, the pleasant journey ended with the deaths of 10 activists -- including nine Turkish nationals and one Turkish American -- and detention of 600 others dreaming of a blow to the Israeli-imposed siege. Following harsh international criticism, Israel deported all of the detained passengers, including El Sakka and Captain Tural.

Mavi Marmara was part of a six-ship flotilla -- carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and construction materials – that was organized by the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief and the Free Gaza Movement. It was the movement's ninth attempt to break the naval blockade.

The attack deteriorated the already sour relations between the two former allies and triggered a rancorous diplomatic rift that lasted over six years.

Following the incident, Turkey demanded an official apology from Israel, justice for the families of those killed, and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. Israel – for quite obvious reasons – did not do any of them.

But the two erstwhile friends announced last week that they have reached an agreement to repair and normalize ties. The reconciliation agreement seems like a duplicitous betrayal to the people of Gaza as they are the only ones whose ordeal in the beleaguered sliver was not regarded in the accord.

Turkey argues that the agreement will facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gazans but the truth is that the deal can only be a way for Tel Aviv to regulate and reinforce its grip on the occupied land.

Winners and losers

Both Turkey and Israel agreed to remove their sanctions on one another, hoping to take back their relations to those days when the countries’ militaries were holding joint drills and the volume of bilateral trade totaled some $2 billion yearly. The agreement can also pave the way for a pipeline deal that will make Turkey a portal for Israeli gas exports to Europe.

One of the other terms of the agreement also commits Turkey to making sure that the families of the victims of Israel’s attack on the flotilla cannot take legal action against the perpetrators or any Israeli official. In return, Israel should put $20 million into a fund to be transferred to victims’ families but it won’t happen until Turkey passes a law to bar its court system from hearing any claims against Israelis for the attack.

It is ironic that even the Israelis know that this paltry amount is nothing to seriously consider in such a deal. Israel’s special envoy for negotiations with Turkey, Joseph Ciechanover, is reported as saying that the agreement would “generate achievements for Israel worth far more than $20 million.”

Under the deal, Turkey is allowed to carry out development projects, including a hospital, a power station, and a desalinization plant, in Gaza, and would be able to deliver personnel and materials for the projects under the supervision of the Israeli army from the Port of Ashdod.

Ankara says the agreement will also ease the delivery of an immediate shipment of 20,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza. To make the propaganda look genuine, a Turkish ship docked at Ashdod port on Sunday afternoon, about a week after the deal was announced. The Panama-flagged Lady Leyla container vessel is carrying 11,000 tons of supplies, including food packages, flour, rice, sugar and toys, but it won’t reach Gaza before a thorough inspection by Israel. This is exactly what Israel wanted since they first asked the flotilla to change course.

Nothing has truly changed for the Gazans and it seems that everybody in Israel and Turkey knows it. Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post that the accord is “a win for the status quo as nothing really changes.”