What's behind the new deal between Turkey and Israel?
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online, where he wrote the column The Roving Eye from 2000 to 2014. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. He currently lives between Paris and Bangkok. In an exclusive interview with the English section of Khamenei.ir, Mr. Escobar’s sheds light on Turkey-Israel relations and the issue of Palestine.
The following is the full text of the interview:
What's behind the new deal between Turkey and Israel?
P.E. - It’s all about gas, gas, gas. Netanyahu himself said on the record that the deal with Turkey is essential to unblock further, immensely profitable eastern Mediterranean gas deals. And here we get to the heart of the matter - the “secret” of the Israeli maritime blockade on Gaza. Palestinians are not allowed to access their own territorial waters because Israeli drilling platforms and export pipelines must be “protected” – even by Iron Dome missile interceptors (protected from what? Palestinian fishermen with “dangerous” fishing nets?)
Palestinians cannot even develop their own gas fields in Gaza’s territorial waters. Land grab meets water grab.
As if this was not illegal enough, Israel is fully backed up by Western energy majors, multinational companies and the always patronizing EU – everyone involved in one way or another with pipeline deals to export gas from the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields to the West.
In the near future, Ankara will not only buy Israeli gas for internal consumption; but crucially will position itself as the prime East-West energy hub towards the EU, while Israel strengthens its producer status with buyers such as Egypt and the EU.
Turkish leaders describe it as a "diplomatic victory", and announced 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid is being shipped to Gaza on Friday; what's your take on that?
P.E. - Whatever deal has been struck still leaves Palestine under a horrendous, medieval siege. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe was not far off the mark when he qualified it as “incremental genocide.” It’s like this was a post-modern normalization of relations with apartheid South Africa.
Predictably the AKP in Turkey has been desperate to spin the whole thing in their favor. It’s impossible. The deal has absolutely nothing to do with Gaza. Erdogan initially had established his conditions; an Israeli apology and compensation over the Mavi Marmara attack, and the end to the siege of Gaza. Only when Erdogan gave up on Gaza there was a deal. The Israeli blockade of Gaza will continue. Israel will only allow the token Turkish “humanitarian” help and some token infrastructure projects. Neocolonial land theft and apartheid – the whole apparatus remains in place.
It’s not an accident that Netanyahu is pleased with the “strategic importance” of the deal. He managed to get business done. And without giving up as much as an inch; he said, on the record, that the “defensive maritime blockade” of Gaza stays.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, for his part, maintains that the siege of Gaza has been “largely lifted”. This is absolutely false. What we’re having now is some sort of double-edged “aid under siege” program. Ankara joins the UN in aiding Israel to manage the siege while at the same time Israel manages to what extent Turkey is able to deliver aid to Palestine.
So, in a nutshell, this is an appalling extension of the illegal, so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.
Last month in a joint appearance, Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal and ex-Netanyahu adviser General Yaakov Amidror sparred over peace. Is this an indication of the next phase in Saudi-Israeli relations - from secret meetings to public meetings?
P.E. - No, they prefer to keep everything in the shade. Prince Turki, former close pal of one Osama bin Laden, is a very wily operator. For Arab public consumption, high-profile Saudi-Israeli negotiations have always been sold as anathema, while everyone seriously following the Middle East knows their convergence of interests; first and foremost to try to demonize and/or isolate Iran by all means available, and then to prevent the expansion of the (non-existent) Shi'ite crescent. Wahhabis and Zionists working hand in hand.
Furthermore, whatever the spin, there’s nothing they can do together towards a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine because the Israeli establishment, across the spectrum, and especially the right-wing nutters, don’t want it. There’s only Plan A - apartheid, as long as it’s supported by the powerful US Israeli lobby, which it always will.
What common interests have enhanced ties among these two Islamic countries with Israeli regime?
P.E. - Erdogan finally realized how his foreign policy committed terrible blunders across the Middle East. He found himself totally isolated; he managed to antagonize both the US and Russia; and his only "ally" was a fearful, mired in crisis House of Saud. So the only answer is to do business - and that's where Israeli gas fits in. And if you have to throw the Palestinians under the (apartheid) bus, that's the price to pay. Ankara and Riyadh already do business. Prince Turki certainly used his skills to “facilitate” a rapprochement between Ankara and Tel Aviv.
But then there’s the Syria question. Israel wants Syria in perpetual chaos. But Turkey and Saudi Arabia are still obsessed with regime change. Still, all three can live with it as long as there's no definitive Damascus victory over jihadis and "moderate rebels".
How can an Islamic country have relations with Zionist regime?
P.E. - Business. Dirty business - linked to regional geopolitical calculations. It's a matter of power politics. And that will always trump Islam versus Zionism - which is a form of fascism.