The Turkish humanitarian aid group IHH intends to send a ship to Gaza similar to the flotilla that attempted to break the Gaza blockade in 2010. IHH director Bülent Yildrim explained in a statement that “as most governments are complicit, the responsibility falls on civil society to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza.”
- Erdogan wins Turkey's presidential election
- When the state sanctions Turkey’s ugly anti-Semitism
- Erdogan accuses Israel of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers
- Turkey plans to treat more injured Gazans
Yildrim actually agreed with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had described IHH as “a threat to Israel.” “Indeed it is,” Yildrim responded. “Because you [Lieberman] have no morality. If you lived in Gaza, we would provide you and your family with aid without discrimination. But you closed off all the aid channels and you are Hitler. You and all the members of the government who are with you are perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians.”
Under the slogan, “Let us be the medicine for Gaza,” the organization is recruiting the support of Turkish donors and aid organizations that work together with the Palestinian human-rights organization that operates in Turkey. Yildrim explained that the Turkish government is trying to help the civilians, “but the Zionists and the Americans won’t allow us to act.”
In May 2010, the IHH flotilla en route to Gaza was raided by the Israel Defense Forces and nine Turkish civilians onboard the Mavi Marmara were killed. The episode caused a deep freeze in Israel-Turkey relations, which only began to thaw last year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the deaths of the civilians.
An agreement was also reached, in principle, for the payment of compensation to the families of the dead, with Israel consenting to pay more than $22 million to a special fund, but not directly to the families.
However, Turkey is still demanding that the blockade on Gaza be lifted as a key condition for renewing full diplomatic relations with Israel, and Hamas is insisting on this condition in the current cease-fire talks in Cairo. But even if Israel agreed to lift the blockade now, it’s highly doubtful that relations with Turkey could be normalized given the invective hurled at Israel by Erdogan in the course of the Gaza conflict.
Erdogan, who on Sunday won the race to become Turkish president with 52 percent of the vote, will be the one setting Turkish foreign policy, and is expected to appoint a loyalist prime minister – most likely current Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who faithfully represents Turkey’s policy toward Israel.
It’s not yet known when the Turkish flotilla will set sail. Unlike four years ago, this time the Turkish government will apparently declare its support for the action, even if it doesn’t directly contribute to the flotilla.