Will the West Back the Jihad or Israel?

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet this week that “the world is beginning to become aware” of what really happened in the “flotilla incident” in which nine of the “activists” trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza were killed. Namely, that the “activists” on the Mavi Marmara—actually “martyrdom”-seeking jihadists tied to the terror-linked IHH organization with some sort of backing from the Turkish government—fell upon inadequately-armed Israeli soldiers with knives, clubs, iron bars, and guns and forced them to fight for their lives.

Is Netanyahu right that this accurate picture of the events is sinking in? True, Vice-President Joe Biden said Israel “has an absolute right to deal with its security interest…. It’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight—3,000 rockets on my people.’” The Washington Post asked why Israel was taking all the blame and called for Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s role in the incident to be probed. Prospective Republican presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney both came out solidly in defense of Israel.

But, even if some understand that last week’s round of media and diplomatic Israel-bashing over the affair was again baseless and slanderous, it still appears to be too little, too late. There have already been reports, and concerns, in Israel that the next flotilla might be escorted by Turkish naval warships, or include Erdogan himself as one of the passengers. This week Iran, too, is getting into the act, with one report claiming Tehran is already planning to send two aid ships to Gaza, and Ali Shirazi, representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini within the Revolutionary Guards, saying that “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities.”

Bluff? Threats made to keep Israel off balance and keep the spotlight off Iran’s continuing progress toward nukes? It’s impossible to know at this point. But what is clear is that the radical bloc led by Iran—which also includes Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and, increasingly, Turkey—feels all the more emboldened by its successes and by Western weakness. To those successes—which include, along with Iran’s unimpeded nuke program, the ongoing, extensive armament of Hezbollah—can now be added igniting another storm of Western fury at Israel over last week’s incident, which included the usual professions of “shock” by Western leaders, the usual pounding of Israel in the Western mainstream media, the usual cooperation by Western countries with anti-Israeli votes in the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the Obama administration’s repeated calls—steeped in contempt for Israeli democracy—for an Israeli investigation of the flotilla incident with “international components.”

The West will have to decide whether it wants to keep encouraging the radicals or finally start discouraging them. Regarding Turkey itself, Israeli analyst Efraim Inbar notes that “support in public opinion for [Erdogan’s] ruling Islamic party is in decline.” If that trend persists, as Inbar points out, a new government could well emerge in Turkey’s July 2011 elections—and that could be precisely why Erdogan is now trying to whip up the masses by upping the ante with Israel. When the result of the flotilla-ploy against Israel is that the West indeed turns in wrath upon the Jewish state, it paints Erdogan as a hero in many Turkish eyes and only bolsters the extremist, anti-Western proclivity.

More generally, one doesn’t have to have excessively fine instruments to detect the escalating saber-rattling against Israel by the Iranian-led bloc, with Turkey now adding its voice emphatically. An armed challenge to Israel’s blockade of Gaza could be the match that lights the fuse. Even if some Western leaders appear to regard Israel as a burdensome rogue, not really worth sticking up for, they would have to think about what such a Middle Eastern conflagration would mean for stability, oil availability and prices, and the like. The sides are heavily armed and the stakes are very high.

Standing up for Israel, imparting the sense that it has Western support, calms the winds and keeps war at bay. Raging against Israel for killing nine jihadists in self-defense is a way of telling the radicals that it’s open season.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com.

  • al Kidya

    I guess that is what happens when you get an overwhelmingly Islamic population in your country.
    Turkey is what, 70% Muslim now? That means there must be a huge number of mosques and therefore conquest, power, and money-hungry Imams.
    Erdogan, in order to retain his seat of power, must bend to the Islamic demands to put pressure on Israel.

    • xman

      Turkey is more than 99% Muslim. As recently as 1914, Constantinople was 50% non-Muslim, today it is 99% Muslim.

  • jim

    Along with the U.S., Egypt and Turkey (as well as other countries) are rushing to join the “don’t bomb me” club. Club initation rules demand that a country abandon Israel and condemn it as the obstacle to peace in the Mid-East. Egypt has done more than enough to qualify for admission with the opening of its border effectively killing the blockade of Gaza, and its just-announced condemnation of Israeli mixed-marriages. Turkey has sponsored the blockade-busting convoy of terrorists and their sympathizers, aka: “aid flotilla”. The USA, until very recently the strongest ally of Israel, has completely abandoned the only democracy in that part of the world.

    With their rapid development by Iran and N. Korea, nukes will soon be in the hands of terrorists. The bombing of the enemies of Islam will begin shortly thereafter, and Israel and anyone associated with the Great Satan will be at the top of the list for punishment.

    Only those in the “don’t bomb me” club will escape unscathed (that is, for as long as they continue to comply with the rules for admission).

  • WildJew

    David, this piece has some good information but it is largely dispiriting. Should we worry about the international community's (known) pusillanimity or about Prime Minister Netanyahu's potential capitulation in the face of international and American pusillanimity and pressure? I worry more about the prime minister and his ability to withstand immoral pressure than I do Obama's pusillanimity.

    Don't you?

    • Jim C.

      I don't think you should worry about Obama; there will be no significant break in US support for Israel. Though his remarks are frustrating, they're nothing new. This is always a game of appearances.

      I was going to write about how I think this will play out, with the Arabs overplaying their hand as usual, losing face, and some sort of peace deal around election time (for show or for "go," who knows), but basically Mr. Hornik hits it when he says the international community, blowing off steam now, will eventually have to reckon with the idea of regional instability (and oil availability–what it's ALL ABOUT) if they don't cool off on Israel.

      • WildJew

        There is not much if any difference with respect to Israel between President B. Hussein Obama and his twenty year mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Same holds true with President Obama's close friend Rashid Khalidi and other jihadist friends. Only Obama is a savvy, pragmatic politician. Were the political climate here in the US more hostile toward the Jewish state in Congress and among the public, little doubt Mr. Hussein would break more significantly with Israel. It would not surprise me, in the years to come, to see a significant US break in support for Israel within the US. We seem to be headed in that direction.

        • Jim C.

          I just don't see it, personally. Foreign policy has traditionally been more or less even keel no matter who the president, anyway, and our official position on Israel is not something that will change. And don't underestimate popular support for Israel even if it is tempered by some people's distaste for Israel's "right wing" leadership and their actions in recent years.

          I must say I am disheartened by Western reaction to this incident, in general, though.

  • Jim C.

    I'm trying to think when the last time the international community was so up in arms when a Palestinian suicide bomb went off, killing actual innocent people not even protesting anything. "Oh, how unfortunate, we condemn it, blah blah." It really is unbelievable.

    God help me, I hope someone does try to run against the blockade–and gets served.

    • bostonian

      Jim you count on rationality of western leaders. But i wonder if there is any proof of it?
      Looking back in history before ww2 and now i dont see any hope(no pan intended}

  • Marcus

    You are absolutely right: "Raging against Israel for killing nine jihadists in self-defense is a way of telling the radicals that it’s open season."

    Carrying Obama's logic to the extreme, it would be as if Roosevelt had condemned the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto for inciting conflict. Unfortunately, too much of our TV and music-immersed population will believe anything, until problems happen on their street.

  • To the ignorant

    I agree with all of you!

    The West had decided!

    They have thrown Israel under the bus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If Israel does not do SOMETHING now it is over.!!!!!!!!

  • solemnman

    The chorus of hatred is coming to a crescendo .Playing the Israel card, to appease and gain influence with israel's enemies ,is nothing new.It was used by the Russians after the 48 war ,by the Americans in 56 and by the French.in 67 .For some time now I have detected a note of the old Jew hatred in the use of the israel card .The hatred that was once muffled by the revealed contents of the concentration camps seems to have found its voice again.

  • USMCSniper

    Obama does not understand the Middle East at all. He campaigned on a platform of “Peace,” but, once in office, he tried to get his “Peace” by completely undermining and destroying our relationship with Israel. This is because he views Israel as “the problem,” and apparently has no idea at all that the Palestinians have been turning down peace deals for decades, especially because they are backed by the Iranian octopus. The *real* enemy in the Middle East is Iran.

  • The Apostle

    We are all about to see prophecy fulfilled. When they brought the remains of Theodore Herzl down the street in Tel Aviv there was a plate on it with words, "I will bring you up from your graves and back into the land of Israel." So too now the 38th and 39th chapter of Ezekiel will be brought to pass. Israel's enemies will be destroyed with or without the USA.