Operation Cast Lead has dropped a wrecking ball on the Turkey-Israel relationship which had been so promising for both nations, but especially for Israel. It allowed the latter to point to a major Muslim nation with which it had good trade and military ties. The two countries appeared to have much in common with domestic guerrilla insurgencies that threatened their respective national security. Close relations allowed each country to point out that relations with the other indicated how moderate its own political, ideological and religious views were. Just as Turkey needed credible western allies in its effort to join the EU, so Israel needed allies to show it was not a pariah in the Arab world. It was a win-win for both sides. Until now.
The N.Y. Times wrote yesterday of the deep freeze into which the bilateral relationship has sunk:
Israel’s Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage during a debate in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29.
A minor correction in the first sentence: to say that Israel’s Arab allies “stood behind it on the war” seems an exaggeration. First, Israel has no Arab “allies” to speak of. Perhaps Ethan Bronner means to say “Arab nations with which Israel has diplomatic relations.” But that is different than calling them allies.
I don’t know to whom Bronner is referring. If he means Jordan and Egypt, I would say “standing behind” Israel in support of the war isn’t accurate. The citizens of both countries were overwhelmingly opposed to the Gaza war and said so. Their governments acquiesced in the war, which is different than saying they stood behind it.
Returning to the impact of the war on Turkey and Israel, here is the former’s view and eminently reasonable in my view:
Turkish officials argue that Mr. Erdogan’s stance against the war was simply healthy criticism — words of warning from a close friend who sincerely believed that Israel had gone too far.
“Turkey has lost its patience with the status quo in the Mideast,” said a senior Turkish official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “Gaza is the bankruptcy of the military solution.”
The official added, “Israel is there to stay, and Palestinians are there to stay, and they need to be talking right now.”
…“The world has not respected the will of the Palestinian people,” he said in an interview with Newsweek on Jan. 31. “On the one hand, we defend democracy and we try our best to keep democracy in the Middle East, but on the other we do not respect the outcome.”
He also rejects Hamas’s use of violence. “I’m not saying Hamas is a good organization and makes no mistakes,” he said.
It is indicative of the distorted mirror through which Israel views the world that it does not understand that it has much more to lose in this relationship than Turkey. Why would any Israeli official making the following statement believe it would cause the least concern to Erdogan?
“He has burned all the bridges with Jerusalem,” said one senior Israeli official, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the issue. “He won’t be seen as an honest broker anymore.”
If I were an Israeli prime minister losing the support of my main Muslim neighbor would be a red flag regarding whatever policy drove it away. I would be bending over backwards to repair the damage instead of thumbing my nose and taking my marbles home in a huff.
Israel mistakenly believes it only needs neighbors who accept it on ITS terms. While most relationships are bilateral with give and take each way. The Israeli version seems to be we take and you give. Once you stop giving what we want we walk away in a huff.
What a way to run a country’s foreign affairs.
I don’t read the NYT and didn’t really about Bronner before your citations of him but he really needs to get a grip. I don’t know how a serious journalist could claim that Israel has any “Arab allies”, if this is the quality of journalism that the NYT inflicts on its readers then the distorted representation of the region that many Americans seem to have makes more sense.
It is unlikely that any democratically elected Muslim state would be an ‘ally of Israel’; Turkey’s relation with Israel is a legacy of its Kemalist Secularism which has been enforced by its bureacratic and military elite. Erdogan as the represenative of the Islamist political tendency which has a popular mandate will obviously reflect the view of Turkish society in this regard. Almost all Arab governments, if they were elected on a real democratic basis, would find it difficult to maintain good relations with Israel never mind allying with it. Only the fact that most are corrupt dictatorships or feudal petro-satrapies that repress their own citizens allow them to take moderate stands in the current conflict. Most Arab governments have always been terrified of pro-Palestinian sentiment from their populace as a preliminary to a loss of control and a potential democratic upsurge.
All this said, while the ‘deep state’ exists in Turkey and is not replaced by an elected government that isn’t subject to its restrictions I don’t think the strategic relationship between Israel and Turkey will alter. There are numerous economic and military areas of co-operation that continue unabated; if Turkey was seriously displeased with Israel these would either be withdrawn or limited. They have not, since the interests of the two states still remains in synch under current political conditions.
I just wish you would wake up from your slumber and experience …Chanting of thousands in your face, being bomabrded from your television screen , radio and broadsheets, street posters accusing you in all mortal sins
sniffling in your face and making threatening remarks towards you and your ethnicity or religion ( I am talking about Turkish Jews here) Whatever it may be, than your rationalization of what the Turkish current Islamist government brougt into the Turkish public discourse and immediate lives of the Jews in Turkey, may you would re-consider your self-importnat remarks…. Yes, the Kemalists have maintained the wall between religion and the state, yes, they brought the Turkish masses from being subjects of crumbling corrupt empire to being secular and modern citizens of the Western world…..Do you think that playing with Islam in Turkish politics will bring Turkey into EU or endear it to the Persion or Arab contenders for the primacy in the region, you are deluding yourself
Spitting in the face of a sister democracy in the MIddle East, only will strengthen the forces of reaction and undermine Turkey in the long run.
Bu for a second, just focus on the first part of this pos and imagine that it is you who is being attacked, and then write your post again
Richard Silverstein says
While I generally applaud secularist political parties & movements, in Turkey the secularists seem to represent little more than the elites and the military. Why is banning head scarves in public places such a heroic gesture to preserve the secular order? Will a woman’s head covering threaten the republic? I don’t think the secular parties offered much to the majority of Turks, otherwise they would be the most dominant parties and they’re not. The moderate Islamists are.
I’m rather astonished that a Turk would describe his own president as “spitting” in Israel’s face. That’s rather crude and inaccurate. Erdogan had reason to be angry with Israel. If I were him I would’ve been angry at the way Israel treated him. Do you mean to tell me that you believe the leader of yr country should be made a laughingstock by the Israeli prime minister who pretended to negotiate over Syrian peace, all the while planning a military operation that would torpedo these peace efforts? Have you no pride in your own country & its leaders?
You need to go back and re-read what I wrote in my initial comment since you seem to have either misread it or misunderstood it. I have not indulged in any “rationalisation” as you put it of the current Islamist Turkish regime; I have merely stated that it reflects a popular mood in Turkish society and does so better than the Kemalist secularists in the army and the bureaucracy – this is an empirically observable fact and one that is supported by the various attempts to undermine the Islamist parties and have them declared either unconstitutional or unfit for power by the Turkish state. The lack of respect for any democratic mandate by the Kemalist state is clearly shown by its willingness to subvert the democratic process by carrying out coups and refusing to firmly place the military and security state under elected civilian control. This also is an empirical observation. My comments were then restricted to the nature of inter-state relations between Israel and Turkey under such a govt. I make no value judgements as to the desirability or the need for such a Kemalist approach and I also do not make any judgement or opinion supporting the AKP or indicating that the introduction of Islamism is a politically beneficial development for Turkey. Why you assume or infer I do is beyond me.
I do support minority rights and secularism and I would not support any policy or party that seeks to undermine them. However, I want to add that we do not get to choose what govts are elected in a democracy and frequently they will be unpalatable ones that indulge in behaviour we cannot condone. The redeeming feature is that these govts can be replaced and mobilised against in a democratic state. This is unlike the security states and dictatorships, which though they may embrace secularism have been involved in the violent repression of their own citizens. One of the reasons why secularism has become so discredited in the region is its association with such security regimes such as the Algerian state and Syria where thousands have been killed and legitimate elections subverted to prevent Islamists from coming to power. This is not only morally unacceptable but also in the long run an unviable strategy if one is serious about setting down deep roots for secularism.
Rather than glad-handing the “sister democracies” of Israel and Turkey; I would suggest that we spend less time and space vacuously praising them and more in insisting that they actually respect the democratic rights of all their citizens such as the Kurds and Israeli Arabs as well as desist from their blatantly undemocratic acts in their neighbouring countries such as the West Bank, Kurdish Iraq and Cyrpus. These two so-called democracies have a lot to live up to and their shameful collusion in acts such as the denial of the Armenian genocide indicate that they have yet to really achieve maturity as real democracies
Arie Brand says
The last statement the Turkish Prime Minister came up with in his interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post was :”There is no justice right now. We expect justice from now on.”
These words give some added weight to the report in the Turkish English language paper “Harriyet Daily News” today (6/2) that the Turkish Chief State Prosecutor’s Office in Ankara opened an investigation into the actions of Israeli officials, including Peres, Olmert and Livni, on the suspicion that they committed “genocide and crimes against humanity”.
If Turkey has no law or law in the making (like Spain) that limits such investigations to cases with a link with one of its own nationals this one might not be a stillborn child.
Whatever the case may be the idea that it is business as usual between Turkey and Israel seems to me a bit far fetched. There are or were indeed strong relations with the Israeli military and Israel’s military industry. Israel provided Turkey with drones and armored cars. Israeli soldiers have been training in Turkey. Apparently Israel is still allowed to use Turkish airspace for its training flights.
But Turkey’s economic interest in the Middle East are not limited to this and other trade with Israel. It needs gas and oil from Iran and investments from Arab countries. President Gul went on the third of February to Saudi Arabia for talks to that end.
And the feeling in Turkey against Israel runs deep. Apart from the demonstrations during the Gaza onslaught there was also a proposal to have in all Turkish schools a minute of commemorative silence for the children murdered in Gaza. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (6/2) that only the personal intervention of Peres with Turkey’s state president Abdullah Gul could prevent that.
Also, mid January Erdogan deliberately violated a taboo on so-called anti-semitism when he stated in parliament that the “jewish controlled media” gave the wrong information on what was really happening in Gaza.
He even questioned Israel’s UN membership saying that he couldn’t see why a country that had ignored so many UN Resolutions would still be allowed in.
Erdogan has however strongly denied that he is an anti-semite and has declared that anyone who starts agitation along that line in Turkey will find him on his way. Even Foxman has thanked him for these words.
But the Turkish Prime Minister voiced what probably many in Turkey, and for that matter in the West, think when he said in that interview in the Washington Post:
” … Hamas is not an arm of Iran. Hamas entered the elections as a political party. If the whole world had given them the chance of becoming a political player, maybe they would not be in a situation like this after the elections that they won. The world has not respected the political will of the Palestinian people. On the one hand, we defend democracy and we try our best to keep democracy in the Middle East, but on the other hand we do not respect the outcome of . . . the ballot box. Palestine today is an open-air prison. Hamas, as much as they tried, could not change the situation. Just imagine, you imprison the speaker of a country as well as some ministers of its government and members of its parliament. And then you expect them to sit obediently?”
This is plain common sense which has thus far seemed to escape Washington.
And they are words which will play well with the Turkish AKP in the forthcoming local elections in March and equally so with the opposition. Two opposition leaders have praised Erdogan for his stance against Israel but have pushed for more radical action to isolate it.
It is not only the massacre of Gazans that led to this situation. Israel’s devious diplomacy is also to blame for it. As has been widely reported Turkey attempted to broker a deal between Israel and Syria and had gotten, in its own estimation, quite far in this matter. Olmert pretended at that stage that he only had to finalise a few things at home and that the Turkish negotiators would hear from him shortly. The next thing they heard about was the attack on Gaza.
Erdogan’s personal frustration had not only been caused by this. Apparently he asked shortly before the action whether what he had heard about it was true. The Israeli answer was “no”.
Apparently you are right-the number of friends is going down-a 19 year old US student was just stabbed in East Jerusalem by Arabs. His crime:he got lost and asked for directions.
Richard Silverstein says
My lord, to listen to you the only ones who are victims of violence are poor 19 yr old Jews who are stabbed or worse by bloodthirsty A-rabs. No Arab has ever been assaulted by an Israeli Jew have they? Come off it, why can you only manage to pay attention to violence against Jews but ignore violence that is inconvenient to yr own prejudices? Can you answer that directly & honestly?
Violence against any civilian is wrong and immoral. But to ignore violence against Arabs is morally obtuse.
“why can you only manage to pay attention to violence against Jews”
Because then there would be no one on this site presenting that opinion-which is probably what you are striving for.
“Violence against any civilian is wrong and immoral.”
How do you define a civilian? When a suicide bomber packs himself/herself with explosives and nails and blows up an entire bus, is that not a soldier? Direct and honest? Please…Why don’t you send that kid’s parents a copy of this blog page?
Richard Silverstein says
Don’t be a fool. You know for a fact that you’re not the only pro-Israel right-wing commenter here. So why act like you’re a Jewish Joan of Arc defending the faith here? If I was striving for no one to represent your position it would easy enough to achieve that. Why do I let you yammer away if that’s my goal? Don’t be such a twit.
But you’re evading the subject. When there is violence by Jews against Arabs why don’t you object to it as I object to violence by Arabs against Jews? Why not? I won’t even wait for yr repy since I’ve given you a chance already & you’ve refused to answer: it’s because of your racist moral myopia, that’s why.
Doesn’t take much for you to go off the reservation, does it? I was talking about violence against Israeli and Arab civilians in the form of the type of knife attack you mentioned. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make about suicide bombing & the bomber being a “solider” since it has nothing to do w. what you & I were discussing before. A little more clarity in yr argument would be a good thing so I could both understand & reply to it.
And as I said I’m against any form of attack on civilians whether it be Qassam rockets or suicide bombings. But you right wingers are so behind the times. You talk as if this in 1996 & a suicide bomber is setting off a bomb every week in Israel. Do you have any idea how many suicide bombings there have been in the last few years? I can remember the last one in Aqaba being over a yr ago & it killed one person. And that 15 yr old boy became a bomber from a desire to avenge the Israeli police who’d beaten him to within an inch of his life at the tender age of 12 or 13.
Doesn’t dredging up old propaganda pts that are pretty close to irrelevant to current conditions ever get old for you guys?
Riyan Qirbi says
I see some interesting comments. There is no doubt that a Genocide of the Armenians occurred, all the empirical evidence supports the fact. There is also no doubt that a genocide occurred in the 1940’s in which the european jewry were the victims. There is also no doubt that the Palestinians in 1948 and since then have been at the very least exposed to ethnic cleansing and certainly genocide might be considered.
Sadly, the vast majority of the perpetrators of the crimes in Palestine/Israel were recent jewish refugee arrivals from Europe. Obviously suffering from what they had been through at the hand of the Nazis. They were trying to heal their own inadequacy in the face of Nazi power by imposing their dominance on a poor and peaceful farmer populace. Sad but true, the insecurity can still be seen today. How can anyone possibly view the recent incursion into Gaza as a victory for israel. It was a true disaster, body counts never determine who wins a conflict. 6 million jews died in WW2, but their side won the war. Ditto, Vietnam!! Bosnia!! and many others.
I truly think the only solution is for the world community to impose a solution on two nations that have become drunk with nationalist and religious fervor that bears no rationality and in the view of any secularist is madness. We must all say ENOUGH!! Stop this madness and impose a peace whatever it takes on both parties. The Israelis must accept that in an ocean of over 1 Billion Arabs and Moslems that are becoming richer and more educated by the day and control immense wealth, that their ambivalence to the views of their neighbours is risky. The route to peace can only be won by accepting Palestinian rights and reconciling with your neighbours, The Arabs!
Simply changing the Israeli mindset will reduce the appeal and power of the madmen of Hamas or Hizbullah. For the Palestinians, after 60 years of victimization by a powerful adversary, if the Israelis respect and grant your aspirations for nationhood then forgive them and go on with you future. If either of you do not pursue this course, god help you, as you are doomed to misery!!!!
Acai Berri says
I think Erdogan is blasting Israel for public consumption back home. Turkey’s actions against the Kurds have been far more bloody that Israels actions against the Palestinians. It also brings up the opportunity for Turkish self examination about the Armenian genocide. Unllike Germany, Turkey has never officially admitted its role in the Armenian genocide