The end of the Cold War marked the end of adversary patterns of alignment in the Middle East, and the ebbing dichotomy between the U.S. and USSR led to vast uncertainty. In response, then-President Turgut Özal stated, as early as 1991, that Turkey should seek an active foreign policy. It was not, until the AK Party came to power a decade later, however, that Ankara began to seriously question Turkey’s acquiescence in Washington’s strategic unipolarity. Ahmet Davutoğlu’s appointment as Foreign Minister emphasized Turkey’s independence and activism, causing unease in Washington. Nevertheless, the U.S. has been generally flexible toward a more independent Turkish foreign policy, under the condition that it does not threaten vital U.S. interests.
After the Israeli attack of May 31, 2010 on the Freedom Flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara, the UN Secretary General appointed a panel of inquiry to resolve the sharp legal dispute that had emerged between Turkey and Israel. The panel was chaired by Jeffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and it was hoped that the report issued would clear the diplomatic air between the two countries. In fact, the publication of the report in May had exactly the opposite effect, enraging Turkey, straining diplomatic relations still further. Turkey seemed fully justified in its response, given the departures from appropriate interpretations of international law. This commentary critically examines the process from the formation of the Palmer panel through the release of its conclusions, looking at the legal and political implications.