Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the international campaign to discredit Israel in the aftermath of its seizing of a flotilla of terrorist-backed aid ships to Gaza. Now Erdogan has vowed to personally sail to Gaza and break Israel's maritime blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.
Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal cited Turkish sources "in the know" who said Erdogan is seriously considering joining the next flotilla of ships to Gaza.
He may also order a squad of Turkish Navy gunships to accompany the next flotilla and give the Israelis a real showdown at sea.
Erdogan and other Turkish officials have used the flotilla incident as an excuse to downgrade relations with Israel and express hostility toward the Jewish state, but Israeli officials note that Turkey has been moving in that direction for some time.
Turkey "has been a friend in the past," aid Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. But under its current leadership, Oren noted that "Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction."
In fact, just hours before Oren spoke to reporters, Erdogan told an Istanbul news agency that he does not view Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Erdogan, Turkey's most Islamist prime minister in decades, has been working hard in recent years to reestablish his nation as a regional Islamic superpower. Leaders in this region know that the best way to do that is to antagonize Israel.
Those efforts were boosted during the January 2009 Israeli incursion into Gaza to bring a halt to incessant Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. Erdogan led international condemnation of Israel, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland two weeks after the Gaza war, Erdogan stormed out of a joint panel when Israeli President Shimon Peres tried to defend his nation's actions.
Israel is not alone in seeing Erdogan's behavior as exaggerated and dangerous.
In it's Friday editorial, the New York Times insisted, "Turkish officials have let their anger and rhetoric go way too far."
The newspaper urged Turkey to calm down, stop the overly hostile rhetoric toward Israel, and to especially stop comparing the flotilla incident to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
The Washington Post also chimed in, using its Saturday editorial to call for Erdogan to be investigated for his ties to the terrorist organizations that sponsored the Gaza flotilla.
In particular, the Turkish IHH played a major roll in financing and organizing the flotilla, and its members were the ones who violently confronted the Israeli boarding party aboard the Mavi Marmara, resulting in the deaths of nine so-called "activists."
The Post noted that the IHH, in addition to supporting Hamas, has a long history of backing anti-Western terror groups, including al Qaeda. IHH offiicials have also actively campaigned on behalf of Erdogan, and their presence aboard the ships apparently won his blessing.
The paper wrote that with such terrorist ties and his outlandish rhetoric following the flotilla incident, Erdogan has become a competitor with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Shiekh Hassan Nasrallah for the title of Israel's most hot-headed enemy in the region.