Jacob Heilbrunn

Israel's Growing Isolation

Turkey's decision to expel Israel's ambassador to Ankara and to downgrade military relations is another sign of Jerusalem's growing isolation in the region. At the very moment of the Arab Spring, Israel risks the danger of looking like one of the most ossified regimes in the region. Despite American efforts to broker a deal between the two sides, Turkey is growing increasingly belligerent toward Israel.

There was no way that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could, or should, have complied with Turkey's demand for an apology over the death of nine Turkish citizens in the Israeli raid on a flotilla headed toward the Gaza strip. But this matter could have been worked out a long time ago. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Netanyahu appears to have been the stumbling block:

the new tensions came despite frantic American efforts over the last few months to mediate a reconciliation between the two key regional U.S. allies. Under a proposed compromise, Israel would have apologized and paid compensation to the victims' families, while Turkey would have agreed to restore ties and not pursue lawsuits against Israel over the incident.

No doubt Turkey's leaders are playing to their Islamic galleries. But it's increasingly clear that Israel's policies toward the Palestinians are engendering more animosities in the region. Egypt could well follow Turkey's lead, absent any progress on West Bank negotiations. It already protested Israel's incursion into the Sinai to track down terrorists and forced it to apologize for the deaths of three policemen. What's more, the ongoing drive for Palestinian nationhood will be supported by Turkey as well. The issue will come to a head on September 20 at the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan is making threatening noises about visiting the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.

In short, events are not moving in Israel's favor. The one plus it might seem to enjoy is that Iran, which had been seeking hegemony over the region, has been wrong-footed by the revolution in Syria. It's backing of Bashar Assad, the quondam eye doctor, does not look farsighted now that he is barely clinging to power. But even a democratic Syria would not necessarily regard Israel with anything but antipathy.

Perhaps these developments will be welcome to some hardliners in Israel who want, in a kind of Leninist strategy, to heighten the tensions between Israel and the Arab world, who want to go it alone. But it hardly seems in Israel's interests to antagonize Egypt and Turkey. This could be the beginning of a new time of troubles for Israel.