GAZA, May 27 (UPI) -- Israel has warned that its naval forces will prevent a Turkish-led flotilla of eight blockade-running ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid for the besieged Gaza Strip, a confrontation that could deliver the death blow to the crumbling alliance between Israel and Turkey.
The breakup of that strategic alliance was triggered by Israel's 22-day invasion of Gaza in December 2008.
Turkey's Islamist government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan bitterly and volubly opposed that incursion in which some 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed.
The alliance with Muslim Turkey, a member of NATO and a key military power in the region, was of immense importance to Israel. But the collapse of the 1996 pact has left it deeply isolated at a critical time as it comes under unprecedented international scrutiny and quarrels with its longtime benefactor, the United States, over a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
If the convoy crisis ends badly, with the Israelis using force against 700-800 humanitarian activists from 40 countries, its relations with the United States, which needs Turkish help to resolve a range of regional issues, will worsen, too.
The high-profile attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007 when the fundamentalist Hamas group seized control of the coastal strip, comes as Erdogan is engaged in a major diplomatic drive to restore Turkey's ascendancy in the Middle East and Central Asia.
"There are no good outcomes to the situation for Israel and no bad outcomes for Turkey," the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor noted in an analysis Wednesday.
"Meanwhile, the United States would prefer if the whole situation just went away."
Stratfor added: "If Israel permits the convoy to enter Gaza, Turkey will have stuck it to a country widely loathes in the Arab and Muslim world, in stark contrast to the relatively impotent Arab gestures against Israel.
"If Israel does not allow the convoy to enter Gaza, Turkey will still get points for trying …
"Israel does not appear to … realize the extent to which U.S. and Israeli interests have fallen out of alignment. Preventing the humanitarian convoy from landing likely increase that isolation and widen the U.S.-Israeli divide," Stratfor concluded.
The aid convoy is the most ambitious effort by Palestinian sympathizers to run the Israeli blockade to get aid to the 1.5 million people besieged in the overcrowded coastal strip.
It consists of three cargo ships and five passenger vessels. The ships, three of them Turkish, were due to rendezvous off Cyprus Thursday for a scheduled Friday arrival off Gaza, where the Israelis enforce a 23-mile maritime no-go zone.
The cargo includes medical supplies such as electric wheelchairs and even a complete dental surgery, construction materials and prefabricated homes, paper for printing schoolbooks and other relief aid.
The convoy was organized by a Turkish aid organization called Insani Yardim Vakfi. Ankara's connection to the non-governmental organization remains unclear.
There's no evidence the blockade-running operation was organized by Erdogan's government.
But whatever happens, it appears to be a win-win situation for Ankara as Erdogan seeks to revive Turkish power after a century of diplomatic slumber that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
Israel had counted on Turkey's cooperation in containing a nuclear Iran and may even have entertained hopes of using Turkish air space for threatened airstrikes to knock out the Islamic republic's nuclear infrastructure.
It certainly relied on Turkey's intelligence service, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati to counter Iran's clandestine operations in the region and for keeping track of Islamist operatives.
In the end, Israel kissed goodbye to 60 years of secret military and intelligence cooperation that preceded the 1996 military cooperation pact by four decades.
This cooperation was invaluable for Israel, particularly at this critical juncture when it could find itself at war with Iran. Instead, they see Turkey's leader, Erdogan, supporting Iran's right to conduct a nuclear program and offering to help Tehran get the Americans off its back.
Israel's loss is compounded by Erdogan's success in dominating Turkey's military, long the arbiter of Turkish politics.
Turkey's generals were the strongest supporters of the alliance with Israel. Now that Erdogan has tamed them with a wave of arrests over an alleged coup plot, there seems to be no prospect of reviving the alliance.