The Islamist-leaning jefe grande of the AKP and prime minister of Turkey, Recip Erdogan, is proving to be something of a regional loose cannon. It is one thing to demand an apology from Israel for the badly mishandled boarding of the Mavi Marmora, but it is a far different matter to threaten war.
Make no mistake about it, the bellicose prime minister's promise/threat to provide naval cover for future "aid" flotillas headed for Gaza is the next best thing to a declaration of war against Israel. Erdogan might not like it, but the Israeli blockade of Hamas ruled Gaza does conform with international law as well as the customs of war at sea. That inconvenient truth has been made clear time after time, most recently in the Palmer Report. The report severely criticized the Israelis for the conduct of the blockade but emphasized that the blockade per se was and is totally legal.
This means that any Turkish naval units convoying the "aid" vessels would be seeking to break an internationally recognized and legal blockade by armed force. That is a pretty good operational definition of war. Perhaps the huffing and puffing PM did not realize that as he allowed his mouth to run away from adult supervision, but if the Turkish navy shoots, the Israelis will shoot back, just as sure as it is hot as hell in Texas.
Having made the promise/threat, the AKP government now had best hope that no pro-Palestinian group will take up the offer. Given that the "humanitarian" NGO behind the Mavi Marmora flotilla has very close ties to the government, it may be expected that at least that group, IHH, will be controllable. But there are many other entities willing to use the specious cover of humanitarian aid convoys to embarrass Israel and, given the Erdogan commitment, perhaps start a war which will end the Zionist menace once and for all.
Certainly there are enough entities, including both state and non-state actors, which fervently desire an end to Israel. Of these, most would be willing to manipulate a face off between Turkey and Israel into the long hoped for War of the Final Solution. Erdogan's promise/threat darn near invites some group to do just that.
There is the chance that Erdogan was motivated not only by his ambition to recreate the Ottoman Empire in an updated form but also by an exaggerated belief that his navy could simply intimidate the Israelis into allowing the Turk protected "aid" convoy to steam unimpaired to port in Gaza. The Turkish navy is much larger than its Israeli counterpart. The TCG has eight former US Perry class frigates as well as more modern classes including eight MEKO vessels. The Turks also can deploy an impressive number of smaller combatants headed by six French built corvettes.
The Israeli navy is small in comparison. However the almost microscopic coastal defense oriented IDF naval forces include three highly competent Dolphin class submarines whose tube launched missiles constitute a serious threat to any surface opponent. Far more importantly, any confrontation between Turk and Israeli would occur within very easy range of the Israeli land based air force. The Turks have no credible way of countering the Israeli air threat. Period.
Israeli air dominance means it is game, set, and match to those fighting under the blue and white flag of Israel.
Erdogan is apparently too busy contemplating his diplomatic brilliance to remember the hortatory advice which ended the sci-fi classic, The Thing, "Watch the skies!"
The Islamist PM has also overlooked the vast difference between impressing the Arab street with anti-Israeli oratory (very good) and saber rattling (which scares the hell out of the same street.) Turkey has gained a whale of a lot of traction in the Mideast by cocking a snoot at Israel by way of words and diplomatic rupture. This does not mean the Arabs or their governments, either new or old, are hoping for a return of the Ottoman Empire under any guise. Nor are all hands thrilled by the prospect of a new regional war whether initiated by intent or miscalculation.
The same dynamics and considerations apply to the second of Erdogan's promises/threats. The expansive, not to say delusional, PM also declared that the Turks will guarantee the maritime commons and subsea resources against Israeli exploitation. This is a more comprehensive commitment than the convoying of humanitarian flotillas. At the same time, it places the Turks in a more vulnerable position by greatly enlarging the possibility of starting a war of miscalculation. It also places Turkey in the role of regional semi-hegemon pretending that no one can drill below the water of the Eastern Mediterranean without Ankara's remit. This is a preposterous assertion which will alienate not only the government of Cyprus but a host of others as well.
Alienation takes many forms. And, alienation can have a host of consequences, none of which is positive from Ankara's perspective.
For example, the present Egyptian government (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) may be happy with the new military agreement between itself and Turkey. It may be pleased with the prospect of joint military, naval, and air exercises to be held early next year. But, neither SCAF nor any successor government other than one dominated by the more extreme Salifists would be thrilled by a joint war against Israel. After all, the Egyptians are a lot closer to Israel and know from experience what that can mean if the bullets fly and the bombs fall.
Every Arab state is too preoccupied currently with internal problems to seek a war. If a war of miscalculation would ensue after a Turk-Israeli shoot out at sea, there would be few Arabs rushing to the frontline. The Turks would find themselves rather alone in the matter.
Erdogan (who now deserves the Joe Biden Award) has no choice in the real world now other than to back down. Fortunately for him the walking back can be done quietly. He and the AKP will lose a bit of street cred, but that is preferable to losing a war.