Turkey’s foreign minister, who has already ordered the expulsion of the Israel ambassador and suspended military agreements with the Jewish State, now said he will challenge Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza in the International Court of Justice.
Ahmet Davutoglu's decision follows a controversial report by the United Nations which stated that Israel used “excessive force” when its commandoes stormed a Turkish-led flotilla bound for Gaza and killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists last May.
However, the U.N. report also said Israel’s blockade is a legal security measure and an understandable way to prevent the trafficking of weapons to Hamas militants who control Gaza. The report also laid part of the blame on the activists’ deaths to Turkey itself.
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.N. report validated Israel’s response to the flotilla and the existence of the blockade.
The U.N. commission clearly states that Israel acted legally in imposing the naval blockade to protect our people from the smuggling of rockets and weapons that are fired at our civilians, Mark Regev said.
Israel has also refused to apologize for the killings.
The blockade was Gaza was first imposed by Israel in June 2007.
The U.N. report was prepared by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. However, since the report was not officially endorsed by the United Nations, Davutoglu said it is not binding.
Indeed, the foreign minister cited another report that was presented to the UN earlier by human rights group declared that Israel was in breach of international law when it attacked the flotilla.
Davutoglu told Turkey’s state-controlled TRT television: What is binding is the International Court of Justice. This is what we are saying: let the International Court of Justice decide. We are starting the necessary legal procedures this coming week.”
Davutoglu further warned that by not apologizing for the deaths of the nine flotilla activists, it risked further alienation among its Muslim neighbors.
If Israel persists with its current position, the Arab spring will give rise to a strong Israel opposition as well as the debate on the authoritarian regimes, he said.
Some opposition politicians in Turkey believe that the increasing hostility towards Israel by the Ankara government raises the risks of a military conflict with the Jewish state.
According to the Associated Press, Faruk Logoglu, a deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party, said: The probability that [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling] party has carried Turkey to the brink of a hot conflict is saddening and unacceptable.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is concerned about the growing conflict between the erstwhile allies, Turkey and Israel.
I sincerely hope that Israel and Turkey will improve their relationship, Ban told reporters in Australia.
Both countries are very important countries in the region and their improved relationship -- normal relationship -- will be very important in addressing all the situations in the Middle East, including the Middle East peace process.”
Turkey and Israel have a long relationship, unique in the Middle East. Ankara was one the first Muslim countries to formally recognize the state of Israel in 1949. Ever since that time, Turkey has remained a key regional strategic ally of Israel.
Dilshod Achilov, an expert on the Middle East, told International Business Times: Historically, the military cooperation (arms deals, joint military exercises, etc.) between the two countries was viewed very negatively by the Arab world. From 1949 through 2000, the Arabs viewed Turkey as an outsider or a ‘pariah’ Muslim-majority state. This perception substantially shifted when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey. Prime Minister Erdogan [has] openly and harshly criticized Israel’s policies in Palestine.”
He added: “It is fair to say that Turkish-Israeli relations are going through a serious test. For greater security and harmony in the region, it is important for both Israel and Turkey to rejuvenate bilateral cooperation and dialogue.”