Turkey is blocking Israel and the EU from participating in the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago. Turkey recently celebrated its 60th year of membership in NATO. The West is also anxious to prevent Turkey from moving further away from western interests in its foreign policy decisions.
The stated purpose for blocking Israel is to force Israel into issuing an official apology for the deaths and injuries that occurred during the raid on the MV Mavi Marmara. The ship claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid and attempted to circumvent Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Israeli forces boarded the ship, killing eight Turkish civilians and a U.S. citizen. Israel claims its personnel acted in self-defense and refuses to apologize. Turkey also accepts no blame for the incident, despite supporting the effort to run the blockade.
Israel claims a terrorist organization with ties to Hamas provided the ship for the activist flotilla that intended to run the blockade. Turkey insists the flotilla was entirely manned and organized by activists who only wished to bring humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
According to (Sedat) Laçiner (a Turkish academic and specialist on the Middle East) Turkey cannot consider Israel, a country that has killed its citizens in international waters, a partner country in NATO, the organization that is committed to ensuring international security. “Israel, a country that has killed Turkish citizens and one American citizen, first needs to acknowledge the crime against humanity it committed in the Mavi Marmara ship raid, offer an apology to Turkey over the raid, pay compensation to the families of the raid victims and normalize bilateral relations with Turkey,” said Laçiner adding, “Only after that can Israel have the chance to cooperate with NATO allies.”
“It is out of the question for us to be together with Israel in any partnership activity in any international organization, not just NATO. We have already said that we have suspended such cooperation, except for forums such as the United Nations where all countries are members,” (Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet) Davutoğlu said.
When asked whether Turkey would allow Israel to participate in the NATO process if Israel offers an apology and pays compensation for the lethal Mavi Marmara raid, diplomatic sources replied that a new assessment of the situation would be done in that case. “For Israel the biggest prize will be the normalization of relations with Turkey,” said the same diplomatic source. In addition, Turkey prevented Israel from taking part in NATO’s long-term operation “Active Endeavor” in the Mediterranean Sea.
The naval patrols — known as Operation Active Endeavor and usually including four warships — were launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The operation was initially restricted to member nations but since 2004 has included vessels from partner nations. Turkey is also blocking Israel’s attempt to appoint a representative to NATO headquarters due to Israel’s non-membership in NATO.