In the aftermath of the appalling episode on the Mavi Marmara between Israeli marines and Gazi activists on 31 May 2010 what matters now is to understand the causes. They lie not with the explanations of the Israeli authorities (“there is not only humanitarian aid there, but rockets and war material too”), nor with those offered by Hamas (“the international community must take action against Israel's state terrorism”). We believe that this act of violence against civilians was aimed at thwarting a new cycle of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, as well as forcing the Obama administration to come out more openly in favour of Israel on a host of issues, from Iran to Syria and Iraq.
The chief target of the attack was not the Mavi Marmara, Turkey or any pro-Palestinian activists transporting outdated rockets amongst tons of humanitarian aid. It was the political strategy of the US state towards the Middle East as a whole. In the view of Israel's neo-zionist elite this has not been up to the mark since Obama came to office. This view is, however, based on little more than a neo-zionist illusion.
Obviously, the countries which will be most worried by Turkey’s reaction are Israel, and the US itself. Episodes like this damage Turkish-Israeli relations further, thus depriving Israel and the US one of its key allies against the rogue regimes of Iran and Syria, and against organisations like the Hizbollah. Seen from a different angle, certain conservative-nationalist circles in Greece, encouraged by what is left of the neo-cons, may now be entertaining the idea of an open alliance with Israel in order to gain some advantage in the Eastern Mediterranean. Primarily, they may be hoping to tip the diplomatic balance of forces in favour of Hellenism in the Cypriot negotiations over a new Constitution (although, it should be said, Greece did withdraw from planned joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the way Israel dealt with the humanitarian convoy). Such considerations are not only rather short-sighted considerations. They are based on deep-seated Cold War illusions.
Equally short-sighted and catastrophic is the view of Israel's neo-zionist elite, according to which the deployment of a little realpolitik in the Middle East and the use of extreme violence, including the use of nuclear weapons, is the only way in which the US and Israel can achieve their desirable political and economic goals in the region. For the truth of the matter is that the various factors behind Turkey's foreign policy emancipation from the US/NATO and Israel have little to do with the Cold War mentality of neo-zionism and US neo-imperialism.
The most important of these factors is Turkey's growing economic power and sheer geopolitical size. Turkish elites are well aware that the Anglo-Saxon and the European worlds are the weak links in the post-Cold War global scheme of things. They see Eastern and Southern Eurasian powers dominating the continent and the globe in the foreseeable future. This power shift to the East is the guiding principle behind the new Turkish foreign policy of Erdogan and Davutoglu and it is in tune with the visionary policy of Ozal in the 1980s. Interestingly, this policy is being effected by the modestly Islamic democratic movement in power, which has opened up to all Arab states and Iran in an unprecedented manner.
This should be a matter of concern for the US only insofar as it continues to look at the world through the old lens of a super-imperial power. But the world has changed, and the demise of Anglo-Saxon economic dominance is bound up inextricably with neo-zionism. This will certainly be reflected in a new era in international relations, albeit not a socialist one.
The irony in this situation is that the neo-zionists, assessing matters in terms of power-politics, think of a world in which Israel and the US are the only players. Neo-zionism has been cultivating this illusion in the US political establishment since 1967. But the world and the US today are not as they were in 1967 and 1948. The Obama administration has recognised this – see, for example, Obama's speech in Cairo last year. But neo-zionism keeps pushing Obama's ruling elites in the old neo-con, Cold War, direction. The neo-zionists have yet to appreciate that the US is no longer the credit power it was, or the industrial engine it once was, as evidenced by the tottering dollar, its huge current account and budget deficits. These are facts of life that both Israeli and US elites have to come to terms with. Times have changed, and they are going to have to abandon their cult of macho politics. To do otherwise will not only perpetuate unnecessary conflicts, but lead to their inevitable downfall.
Get our weekly email