Monday, June 7, 2010
Prof. Efraim Inbar
06 June '10
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: By endorsing the “Gaza Flotilla” Turkey escalates tensions with Israel. This is just another reflection of the change in Turkish foreign policy, which acquires a greater Islamic coloration and is distancing itself from the West. Only a change of government in Ankara can bring Turkey back into the Western fold and restore the partnership between Ankara and Jerusalem. The next elections in July 2011 provide the Turkish citizens an opportunity to remain democratic and part of the West.
The Turkish Role
The “Gaza flotilla” incident has revealed once again the Turkish government’s ugly face and particularly the great hostility harbored by its prime minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, towards Israel. Many Israelis watched TV broadcasts of incited Turkish mobs chanting “Death to Israel.” Prime Minister Erdoğan, who occasionally makes anti-Semitic statements, takes every opportunity to slam the State of Israel. Moreover, it seems that the Turkish government was behind the organization of this provocation and it definitely endorses it. Even more troubling is the fact that the Turkish government has cooperated with IHH (Turkish Relief Organization), an outfit with links to Al-Qaeeda and other Islamist terrorists.
Turkey Slides Away
It is a shame to see Turkey, an important strategic partner of Israel in the 1990’s, turn into a bitter adversary. Turkey, an important regional state and an important Western ally, stayed away from the Middle East for almost a century, because the Turks perceived this region as backward, fanatical, corrupt and undemocratic. Yet, in the last few years, Turkey is returning to the Middle East and tries to carve a leadership role commensurate with its imperial past. Moreover, in the last few years, Turkey has been in the throes of an identity crisis, in which Muslim tradition, which is still entrenched within Turkish society, aspires to greater expression than was hitherto permitted by the secular regime in Ankara. Attitude toward Israel is part of that debate.
The ruling Islamist party (AKP) since November 2002 become emboldened only after its reelection in July 2007 to make significant changes to Turkish foreign policy. Ankara’s relations towards Israel cooled, especially in the wake of the Gaza war in the winter of 2008. Scathing criticism, cancellation of joint military maneuvers and warming up toward Hamas have characterized Turkish policy. As of late, the fact that Washington has a weak president who emphasizes improvement of relations with the Muslim world, even at the expense of Israel, only encourages Turkey to distance itself from the Jewish state.
The deterioration of relations between Ankara and Jerusalem is a Turkish initiative, over which Israel has no influence. The hostile stance taken by Turkey towards Israel is part of the major transformation of Turkey’s foreign policy. In fact, Turkey is turning away from the West. Its position diverges from that of the West on Hamas, but also on other important issues. Ankara hosted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused of war crimes, despite the protest of the European states. Turkey is the only member of NATO to have hosted Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Turkey is also growing closer to Syria, which is anti-American and deep in the Iranian camp.
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