April 2, 2013
Barack Obama orchestrated. Benjamin Netanyahu Apologized. Recep Erdogan Cried Uncle.
Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, and Mel Gibson each made public apologies. Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for a 2010 incident regarding Israel's defense of an internationally recognized naval blockade, where 9 Turkish were killed. The United Nations investigation of the incident was led by Sir Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand and Alvaro Uribe former President of Columbia. They learned that the Israeli Defense Forces were armed with only paint ball guns when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, Turkish vessel supported by the IHH radical Islamist organization with ties to Hamas. The Palmer report concluded that extremists on board the Turkish vessel were looking for a fight with Israel, and acted recklessly in attempting to break the blockade. The report supported Israel's blockade of Gaza as a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea. The report suggested that Israel should regret, but not apologize for, the incident.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan discarded the United Nations Palmer Report, demanded a full apology, reparations to the families of those killed, and a termination of the blockade. Turkey expelled the Israeli Ambassador and ceased military cooperation.
Last week President Barak Obama orchestrated the Netanyahu apology to Erdogan. Some media present it as Netanyahu eating crow. In probability he is the Cheshire cat.
Israel made overtures to Turkey with regard to reconciliation, agreeing to regret the incident and to pay restitution, but not to ending the blockade. Turkey remained steadfast that the trilogy of demands be met. This is in spite of Ankara's need to revive military cooperation with Israel. Turkey needs Israel's military technology.
Netanyahu's apology was exactly what Israel had offered in the past, regret about the incident and restitution, which had previously been rebuffed by Erdogan. The blockade remains, and Erdogan accepted those terms.
Vladimir Putin visited Israel last June to initiate negotiations regarding Russian Gazprom and Israel's Tamar Gas Fields in the Mediterranean. A month before the 'apology', Gazprom signed an agreement for the exclusive rights to export liquefied natural gas from the Tamar floating plant. Prime Minister Netanyahu said "We are taking an important step toward energy independence. Israel will be able to exploit the advantages of natural gas environmentally, geopolitically, socially and economically and turn Israel into an important international player."
Moscow is also seeking partnerships with the government of Cyprus, not the northern area that has been in Turkish control since their 1974 invasion of the island. The Greek Cypriots have approached the Kremlin for a loan of 3.5 billion Euros. Gas field finds off the coast of Cyprus will make it a future regional energy power. Cyprus has been in negotiations with Israel regarding Cyprus gas fields. This would provide Russian, Israeli, Cyprus partnership for the Mediterranean gas fields. Moscow has had little time for the Turks.
Netanyahu's Facebook page indicates that he delivered the apology due to the threat of Syria's chemical weapons and worry that other advanced arms might fall into the hands of Hezbollah, or al Qaeda. Turkey and Israel will share intelligence to take action preventing transfer of these dangerous weapons.
Netanyahu has officially been invited to Moscow by Vladimir Putin for discussions regarding Syria and Iran. Each of these countries represents a danger to Israel. Russia has been protecting Syrian President Bashar al Assad; however Russia is evacuating citizens from Damascus, as Assad's grip weakens. The Kremlin has acknowledged that the days of the Assad regime are numbered. Putin is in discussions about Syria's lethal chemical weapons of mass destruction.
The geopolitical game is high stakes poker. Israel, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey sit at the table; as the cards are being shuffled.
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