Could Israel vs. Flotilla be part of Turkey’s bid for Regional Hegemony?

As was inevitable, the commentary on Israel’s raid / high seas piracy / legal blockade enforcement / call-it-what-you-will has degenerated into a polarized flame-war between the blind and the deaf, which although very entertaining is also pretty useless*. By far the best analytical article on this issue I’ve found that really cuts through the partisan BS is The Limits of Public Opinion: Arabs, Israelis and the Strategic Balance, a free Stratfor article by George Friedman**.

The most fundamental point is that the current situation suits everyone just fine. The Arab regimes (and the Palestinians themselves) are weak and disunited and no longer represent the strategic threat to Israel that they did during the Cold War. Israel’s actions give them a chance to vent their fury to satiate the “Arab street”, but it is not in their interests to push the envelope any further. In turn, Israel is big enough to accept the verbal lashing in return for keeping its enforcement of the Gaza blockade credible. However, this Flotilla Affair may also presage much more significant long-term developments.

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The Geopolitics of Israel vs. Flotilla

So given that it’s the only game in town, let’s start provocative? The only group who behaved rationally are the Israeli commandos and the Americans. And perhaps the Turkish government.

The Israeli position on the Gaza blockade is understandable (which is not to say optimal). The Palestinians elected Hamas, a militant group to Israel that lobs rockets at them and talks of driving it into the sea – as well as being seen as a defender of and social services provider to the Palestinian people, which accounts for its domestic popularity. Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place. How to dislodge Hamas from power? And how to appease the settler and nationalist lobbies? And do it without attracting (too much) international opprobrium. Some kind of blockade begins to seem like an eminently reasonable idea.

Maintaining this blockade required that it be credibly enforced. By international conventions on the laws of the seas, Israel was well within her rights to conduct a stop and search on the flotilla prior to its embarkation to Gaza. But how stupid do you have to be to do this as an armed boarding in international waters? Now even lawyers can’t defend you, only ideologues are left.

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