Israel agreed to establish a $20 million fund for activists killed in a 2010 attack on a Turkish aid ship bound for Palestine, but the deal has far more to do with oil than human rights.
JERUSALEM — After six years of strained relations, Israel and Turkey have hammered out a deal to renew diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The deal, announced on Monday, marks Israel’s willingness to make major concessions over the 2010 attack by Israeli naval forces on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that belonged to the Freedom Flotilla, a group of vessels carrying aid bound for Palestine. Ten activists were killed in the attack.
The Washington Post reported that Israel agreed to establish a $20 million fund for the families of the Mavi Marmara victims and allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestine.
However, far beyond any recognition by Israel of the human rights of Palestinians and their allies, the deal reflects a growing alliance between Israel and other major Middle Eastern powers seeking to control the region’s energy resources.
“The rapprochement has potential wide-reaching security and economic ramifications in the region,” reported The Post’s Erin Cunningham and Ruth Eglash. “Turkey and Israel once shared close military cooperation, and they have common worries over the Islamic State and other war-driven instability in Syria, which borders Turkey and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”
Israel took control of the Golan Heights, a region of about 460 square miles in Syria, in the Six-Day War of 1967. Officially annexed in 1981, Israel has expanded its oil drilling and illegal settlements in the Heights in recent years under the cover of the Syrian civil war and with flagrant disregard for international condemnation.
Israel’s energy agenda
According to information held in WikiLeaks archives, Israel is likely seeking not just to solidify its control over the Golan Heights, but to secure access to Syria’s fossil fuels. Leaked State Department emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server show that the U.S. deliberately helped to promote instability in Syria at Israel’s behest. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, shared plans to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad date back to at least 2006.
WikiLeaks archive of U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that Turkey was also working with Qatar and Saudi Arabia to destabilize Syria. Israel has also made diplomatic overtures toward Saudi Arabia in recent months, although the details of those advances remain largely under wraps.
According to a Sept. 9 analysis by MintPress News founder and editor-in-chief Mnar Muhawesh, this growing alliance is backed by the U.S. government and its NATO allies, and it represents an effort to block Russia from accessing Syria’s energy resources while simultaneously weakening Iran. Muhawesh wrote:
“The true agenda to hijack Syria’s revolt quickly became evident, with talking heads inserting Syria’s alliance with Iran as a threat to the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the region. It’s no secret that Syria’s government is a major arms, oil and gas, and weapons ally of Iran and Lebanon’s resistance political group Hezbollah.
But it’s important to note the timing: This coalition and meddling in Syria came about immediately on the heels of discussions of an Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was to be built between 2014 and 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria. With a possible extension to Lebanon, it would eventually reach Europe, the target export market.”
Humanitarian aid comes with strings attached
Even increased aid to Palestine potentially benefits Israel. A September study by Aid Watch Palestine found that at least 72 percent of aid to Palestine eventually finds its way into the Israeli economy.
And Israel’s deadly blockade of Gaza remains largely intact, preventing everything from crayons to building materials and medical supplies from reaching the enclave. Turkey initially demanded an end to the blockade, but that demand was dropped shortly before the new agreement was forged, according to a report from the Electronic Intifada, a news and advocacy site dedicated to Palestinian liberation.
“In a face-saving measure, Israel will allow Turkey to increase its ‘humanitarian’ role and infrastructure projects in the besieged territory,” Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada’s co-founder, wrote on Monday.
Meanwhile, Abunimah reported “anger and dismay” over the deal from residents of the occupied Gaza Strip. He quoted Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian educator and writer, who condemned the agreement in a tweet:
The Turkish Israeli deal is a scandal and an insult to Palestine/Gaza and to the blood of Turkish activists
— refaatesque (@ThisIsGaZa) June 27, 2016