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Sunday, June 06, 2010

It's inevitable: Turkey will break relations with Israel

It seems inevitable that Turkey will break relations with Israel in the months - if not days - ahead. Personally, I'd rather it were the other way around. Israel ought to show more pride in its own position and not suck up to the terror-loving Islamist country that Turkey has become over the last seven years.

Let's start by looking at some of the events of the last few days (since Monday's incident on the Malvi Marmara) which lead to the conclusion that a break in relations is inevitable.

On Friday, Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Narnik Tan, who used to be its ambassador to Israel, threatened a break in relations between the two countries.
"Israel cannot find any better friend in the region than Turkey," Namik Tan, the ambassador, told a small group of reporters. "And Israel is about to lose that friend."

Asked if he was saying Turkey would cut the ties it has had with Israel since shortly after the founding of the Jewish state, Tan referred to the massive protests in Turkey against the Israeli actions. Because of the emotions, he said, "the government might be forced to take such an action."

To prevent such a break between two close U.S. allies, Tan said that "first and foremost" Israel needed to apologize for the deaths. He said Israel also must agree to an international probe of the incident and end its blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas militant group.

A senior Israeli official rejected the demand for an apology. "Israel is not going to apologize for defending ourselves," he said. "Our soldiers are not going to apologize for defending themselves from a murderous assault." He also rejected the call for the international probe and lifting the blockade.
Of course, the very notion that Turkey is Israel's 'best friend' in the region is now pathetic.
Turkey's best friend in the region is likely Iran. Erdogan has endorsed Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and embraced an advisor who gave money to an al-Qaeda financier.

Saying Turkey is Israel's best friend in the region is like Vladimir Putin warning Georgia that it will lose its best friend if it angers Russia, or North Korea warning South Korea that it will lose its best friend if it fails to hand over another couple hundred million dollars in aid.

That Israel doesn't have many friends in the region is more a reflection of the region than of Israel.
Also on Friday, Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, pushed back hard against Turkey.
“Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction,” declared Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

“Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years,” he said. “Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”
But not hard enough.
But Oren, speaking on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, held out hope for reconciliation. “We certainly do not have any desire in any further deterioration in our relations with the Turks,” he noted. “It’s an important Middle Eastern power. It has been a friend in the past.”
On Saturday, Israel's Foreign Ministry announced that Israel would not apologize to Turkey over Monday's incident and claimed that the Turks were looking for an excuse to break relations with Israel.
Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday that Israel would not apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who were killed during the Israel Navy's raid on the Turkish-flagged 'Freedom Flotilla' ship earlier this week.

A top official in the Foreign Ministry, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Turkish demand for an official apology was mainly an excuse to allow Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's to cut diplomatic ties with Israel.

The foreign ministry officials said that they were surprised by the request for an apology which came from Turkey's Ambassador to Washington Namik Tan, as the demand was not relayed through any other diplomatic channels.

Tan, who was Turkey's ambassador to Israel before his U.S. appointment, was known to be a supporter of Israel, the officials said.

"If he is speaking like this it is probably an official order he received from top officials in the Turkish government," an official said. "It seems that the deterioration is continuing and a complete cut in diplomatic ties is only a matter of time."
Also over the weekend, the Begin - Sadat Center's Ephraim Inbar confirmed what we have all seen.
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. Moreover, Turkey has stepped up its activity in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Undoubtedly, Erdogan feels more at home in Middle Eastern markets than in Western cities. Turkey has also tightened its relations with Russia, which aims to curb the role of the US in international affairs. Indeed, Turkey did not hesitate to deviate from American preferences. It announced that it will not join sanctions against Iran and in the past month has strived, together with Brazil, to extricate Iran from its uncomfortable diplomatic position due to its ongoing nuclear program. Backing the flotilla and Hamas, Turkey also affected negatively the dim prospects of the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians - a major American priority. Unfortunately, Turkey slides away from the West into an independent posture largely colored by the Islamist tendencies of the current government.
Inbar holds out hopes of a change in Turkish elections in July 2011. I don't share that hope. A weak American President has nothing to offer the Turkish public and the average Turk doesn't have the tools to make the right decision even if he wanted to. A break in relations with Israel appears inevitable.

Given all that, I'd rather be the one doing the breaking than being the one broken. The time has come for Israel to shoot straight and break relations with Turkey. Otherwise we look like the beaten spouse who keeps coming back for more.


At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


what about the turkish jewish community?

At 10:52 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Turkish Jews should make aliyah. Their future is bleak under an Islamist regime.

And yes - Israel should recall its ambassador and break off relations with Ankara. There are irreconcilable differences and they won't be patched up Israel groveling to the Turks. Its time for Israel's government to wake up to the fact Turkey has changed and the once warm relations between the two countries are now a thing of the past.

Turkey made its choice. Now its up to Israel to do the same.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Hopefully, the Turkish Jewish community is better informed than the German Jewish community.


Maybe the German Jews don't know about the rockets landing on Israeli civilians. Or, if they do know, maybe they think that if the Gazans can just import more rocketmaking supplies and other weapons that the attacks from Gaza to Israel will stop. (Because we know (but do the German Jews) that Gaza has well stocked markets and aid available for people who need it, because the current humanitarian system is working fine.) Or, maybe they do know, but they think the Jews have it coming somehow. If that is the case, I'll just cry. Self destruction as a virtue. Still or again. Not good.

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Channel Surfer said...

"Israel ought to show more pride in its own position.."

that totally encapsulates Israel's government failings as of late. Lack of pride and no reason for it.

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Channel Surfer said...

Sadly, it mirrors a similar (but only attempted) change in U.S. policy under Obama. At least in the US, Obama is heavily constrained by Congress which is very pro-Israel.

At 1:29 AM, Blogger Stuart said...

The flotilla attack on the blockade was a hostile act against Israel that justifies recalling Israel's ambassador to Turkey and a freeze on all military trade (if not all trade). When Turkey demanded an apology, Israel's response should have been both a strong rebuff and denunciation and a demand for an apology. Now Israel should demand that apology as a condition of continued relations (though a major ratcheting down of rhetoric from Turkey might mitigate this).


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