Turkey is literally the crossroads of Europe.
The country forms a land bridge between Europe and Asia by straddling an isthmus that separates the Black Sea from the Mediterranean.
Often caught in the cross-hairs of one invader or another, Turkey has recently flexed new-found muscle on an international scale by brokering a nuclear pact (joint with Brazil) aimed at beginning to solve the issue of Iranian nuclear power.
Turkey faces no military threat in its own neighborhood and is realizing its economic potential. It has long been considered an ally of Israel, and the Turkish government has probably wanted to redefine that relationship.
It did so in a dramatic way this past weekend by maneuvering Israel into a no-win position.
With the aggressive Israeli reaction to a flotillatrying to gain access to Gaza, breaking with Israel was not only easy, but probably required by the internal politics of Turkey. With one action, Turkey now appears to be the defender of the Palestinians in Gaza, usurping the role that Iran has been trying to claim. Israel was trying to keep control of Gaza and will claim they were provoked and attacked first.
It won't matter.
As in 1947 with the Exodus plan (thanks to Stratfor Intelligence for the reminder) when Israel maneuvered world opinion to make the British look like brutes and child murderers, world opinion will condemn Israel for the loss of life.
Desire to learn the complexities of a situation go out the window when there is a powerful image at hand.
A dozen or more dead protesters cannot be overcome by Israeli claims their action was justified.
Turkey has vaulted itself onto the world stage like few before it. Reaching across the ocean to form an alliance with Brazil, thumbing its nose at the US with an Iranian deal just before the US, Russia, and China were to announce their own (very weak) accord, and now outflanking Israel to jump to the head of the class claiming the mantle of protecting the Islamic world from Israel, Turkey has arrived and is the new tough guy on the street.
Israel is in trouble.
Netanyahu canceled his planned meeting with President Obama this week.
There will be international calls for sanctions against Israel which will be hard for the US to counter.
Relations between the two countries were frosty to begin with. Israel's worries about Iran's nuclear capabilities will have less resonance and they will be increasingly more isolated on the world stage. With one ship, one provocation, more damage has been done to Israel's standing than by all the suicide bombers and intifadas that have gone before.
World markets seem to have taken this in stride. As I write this at 8 PM Monday after a glorious Memorial Day weekend here in NY, the Asian markets are relatively calm. I'm not. I fear this could lead to a whole lot of trouble. A threatened, isolated Israel is a danger on many levels.