A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
June 6, 2010 More Fallout From Turkey on Flotilla- Israel US Relations
Turkish Prime Minister Erogwan continued his anti-Israeli ranting in the last 24 hours. Erogwan totally identified his government with status of the Palestinians, stating Hamas are not terrorists. He stated further that what happens in Gaza, is like what happens to Istanbul. Moderates of the Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan are becoming more and more uncomfortable with Erogwan's increasing identification and actions on behalf of the most radical Palestinians. Both the historic and national memories of Ottoman control of the Middle East, coupled with Erogwan's close ties to the Iranians come to play in their increasing unease.
Erogwan and the IDF have one thing in common. Both seem unhappy with the release of a set of photos by one of the leading Turkish media networks. The photos show a group of captured Israeli commandos. Erogwan attacked the release of the images saying it undermines the Turkish case (the case insisting that these activists were peaceful peaceniks). The Israeli army, it would seem, did not want to show their most elite commandos being captured. Some criticism has developed in Israel about the decision not to announce what happened immediately. The critics' claim that the army knew within moments that they were being ambushed, and if they had publicized the assault immediately, the world's reactions would have been different. Others say, the timing of the Israeli announcement would not have made any difference, since the world’s memory is very short and the critics were just looking for an excuse to criticize Israel.
In the meantime, the Israeli government has rejected a proposal put forth by UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, to commission an International Panel of Inquiry, chaired by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, together with members from Israel and Turkey. The Israeli government is working on a counter-proposal that would consist of an Israeli panel, led by a respected jurist, an American observer, or member, the name being bandied around (ridiculously) is President Clinton. Prime Minister Netanyahu is reported to believe the worse is over and Israel has time to respond. After watching the Sunday morning TV shows I am not so sure- and certainly the Israeli claims and proof that it was the Turks on board who started the violence seems to have gain little traction. Israel successfully stopped the ship Rachel Corrie yesterday without violence, but there are more in the way.
Finally, there was a major story in the New York Times, Week In Review, entitled: What to do About Israel. This was a very problematic story on many levels. First, on the most simple level, the first half of the story extensively quotes Anton Cordesman, calling him "a foreign policy dignitary". Cordesman has been spouting the line that Israel is "a strategic liability" since the 1980’s; when he was a major supporter of the AWAC sale to Saudi Arabia and was rumored, at the time, to be the recipient of large Saudi research grants. His anti-Israel rhetoric was moderated, somewhat, during the Clinton and Bush years, but with the rise of an administration that is somewhat less-friendly to Israel, Cordesman is back to his old habits. A little less important, but no less annoying, is this article's references, including to some comments made by an anonymous attendee at a Seder. This constitutes the third reference in the the last few days, by various writers to the comments by this anonymous attendee at a Seder in Bethesda, MD. Unless this seder attendee was Eliyahu Hanavi himself, it seems a random thought shared by an anonymous Seder attendee does not deserve the gravitas it has been granted.
Finally, to the facts in the article. The first problem is that Coredesman is quoted as saying recent Israeli governments, especially the one led by Netanyhu have increasingly taken actions that run against the interest of the United States, including their recent decision not to stop the building in East Jerusalem. As I have stated in this column on several occasions, I am not exactly a big fan of the Netanyahu government. However, the Netanyahu government has hardly taken any actions that could be considered particularly "against the interest of the US", compared to actions of other governments. Not stopping an action that no Israeli government to date has ever agreed to, is hardly a fair criticism of Netanyahu. More to the central point: I have not doubt that if Israel did not exist, America would have an easier time in the Middle East. But Israel is not about to disappear, nor is it about to go silently into the night. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Americans support Israel and American policy in support of Israel is totally unconnected to the Jewish community. A large portion Americans are Christian pro-Zionists, who are as enthusiastic, sometimes more so, in their support of Israel than the Jewish community. While the line of thought that Israel’s actions are a strategic liability to the US is true, and if Israel would just play dead it might be better for the US. However, there are waves of criticism of Israel built on a false supposition that seems to gain ground every few years (from the time of the last major Israeli concession or offer of one increases). The detractors of Israel contend that if only Israel would do "X", "Y" or "Z", there would be peace. I only wish it was so.