The details on the confrontation between Israeli commandos and a flotilla of Turkish “humanitarian” aid ships bound for Gaza is still being sifted as I write, and there will be other such incidents as the provocations continue. As usual, Israel will bear the large majority of the brunt of the public outrage from all the usual “blame Israel first” crowd and, although their actions can be justified in long-standing international law, their tactics clearly left something to be desired. But the most important story here is the “backstory”, which is the decline of Turkey as a reliable American ally and the distancing of its foreign policy from the interests of Israel and the U. S. The evolving shift of the Turks away from the strict statutory secularism that has been in place since the early 1920s is much in evidence in the Ergodan regime, and its growing coziness to Hamas, the Iranian regime, and other radical Islamic groups should be of great concern. The other part of this backstory, however, is the degree to which the messages sent by the Obama foreign policy team over the past 18 months have provided cover for such drift and encouragement for such provocations. After all, U. S. relations with the Netanyahu government in Israel are not exactly warm and the shabby treatment of a number of other American allies in Europe is not lost on the Turks, not to mention the acquiescence evident in the handling of Iran’s nuclear advances.
There are some who believe that Obama is actually working to arrange the failure of the Netanyahu coalition government and that the embellished outrage over the housing projects in Jerusalem is one manifestation of this. This, too, would be obvious to the Turks and others in the region. But if there is even the chance that Obama is in the midst of a major reassessment of long-standing U. S.-Israel relations, he had best be very careful to remember that, to the Israelis, this is about much more than simply property lines and state borders or dreams of a “peace process”; this is existential, and it might not be the best time to risk a test of Mr. Netanyahu’s fortitude.