Monday, February 16, 2009

Gaza: the Hidden Cost for Israel

Stuart Cohen, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, has just come out with a devastating analysis of Israel’s recent Gaza operation. Cohen looks at the operation from a number of angles, one of them being how much Israel lost on the diplomatic front, particularly with regards to Turkey. As Cohen writes:
There is not a single regime anywhere in the Muslim world that can today remain impervious to the sight of Arab fatalities, whose deaths have been caused by an army consisting for the most part of Jews. Even those governments who have no particular love for the Palestinians, and even less for Hamas (and they are many) cannot be expected to turn their backs very easily on centuries of ingrained prejudices. Only by substituting wishful thinking for strategic realism is it possible to imagine that Israel will endear herself to her possible Arab partners by killing and maiming hundreds of their co-religionists and wreaking havoc on their homes, schools and mosques.

Turkish reactions to Operation Cast Lead in many respects epitomize this situation. Virtually overnight, a country that many Israelis considered to be a vital strategic partner has publicly shown that she is prepared to play the role of a major critic of Israeli policy. This does not of course mean that Turkey aligns herself on the side of Israel’s foes – at least, not yet. But it does raise once again the sort of questions with respect to Turkey’s reliability that have always been in the air, and that became especially pronounced when she refused to allow US forces to make use of military bases on her territory during their 2003 attack on Iraq.
Given the delicacy of the Israeli-Turkish relationship, which is itself of course exacerbated by the complexion of the Turkish government, there are grounds for wondering whether the diplomatic costs to Israel of Operation Cast Lead might also not have outweighed its possible benefits.
The entire piece is worth reading. You can find Cohen’s short but to-the-point article here. As Israel's relationship with Turkey continues to suffer in the wake of the Gaza operation, Cohen's analysis seems particularly relevant.

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