The Ottoman Empire's navy was one of the largest in the world, not just in its immediate area of operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to its great navy, in 1516 the Ottoman Empire was able to conquer Syria, then head for North Africa where it conquered Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and parts of the Spanish Empire.
This navy returned from its historical oblivion over the past weekend. A senior Turkish official revealed that the Turkish Navy intends to significantly increase its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea following the Palmer Commission report. The official described it as an “aggressive naval strategy” against the “thuggery of the Israeli navy.”
Ankara is enraged. Against Israel, of course, but even more so against former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, who headed the investigative committee. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is acting partly out of emotion in its approach to foreign policy. This has allowed it opportunism -- think Syria -- but there is a limit to how far Erdogan can actually go. These days, it will be a bit hard for him to reach the U.S. Congress, for example.
Turkey showed its true colors at Davos in 2009 when Erdogan stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum following a heated debate on Gaza with President Shimon Peres, who has long been one of Turkey’s greatest defenders.
Erdogan’s failure to get Turkey into the European Union, was for him, an insult to Turkey's nationalism. The feeling of being rejected by Europe turned into his strength, and motivated Erdogan to turn his sails eastward. Suddenly the Arab World was attractive, be it via the leaders before the “Arab Spring” or via the people after the “Spring.”
With respect to the Mavi Marmara, who would have believed that two positive things could come out of the affair from the 2010 Gaza flotilla affair? Firstly, it's "success" thwarted the Flotilla that was meant to set sail after it. Secondly, Israel has been granted one of its greatest successes in the U.N. since the vote on the partition of the state in 1947. The Palmer report deemed Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons smuggling. Did Israel’s delegation to the U.N. ever imagine that such a declaration could pass?
The Arab Spring created a vacuum amid Arab leadership. In the hopes of filling that void, Erdogan understands well the unifying common denominator: Muscle flexing against Israel. Israel’s apology won’t change a thing. Just the opposite, in fact. It will only strengthen the claims against our forces in international courts, weaken our standing in the region and minimize the accomplishments of the Palmer report. An apology is like a confession, philosophically if not also legally.
Today, Turkey is not seeking reconciliation. It seeks to humiliate Israel.
On Aug. 14, Erdogan gave a speech following the Ramadan fast about losing patience with the war on Kurdish terrorism in his country. In the meantime, his foreign ministry is possibly planning an "educational" trip for him to Gaza.
Apropos the navy, Turkey, a dear nation to us, will not get angry if we remind them of their defeat at Pinto in 1572, one of their first naval defeats.