Turkey & Israel: Friends and allies
Posted by musliminsuffer on January 31, 2009
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
=== News Update ===
Turkey & Israel: Friends and allies
By Elif Aydýn
Anomalous isn’t it that the one Muslim country that has strong and cordial ties with Israel has been the one to speak out most vociferously against the latter’s heinous assaults on Gaza?
It has surprised Turks themselves that among Muslim majority countries observing the horrors, it has been Turkey that has been foremost in its utter condemnation of Israel’s conduct. The Chairman of the Turkish Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee, Murat Mercan, quit the assembly’s Turkish-Israel Friendship Group in protest at the latter’s actions in Gaza.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, accused governments and international organisations of recklessly and irresponsibly engaging in a ‘wait and see’ politics. He criticised these same governments and international organisations for drawing distinctive reactions to events in Georgia and those in Gaza.
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, spoke of Israel’s actions as constituting “a crime against humanity” which would be judged by history. And facing calls at home, similar to elsewhere, to break off diplomatic ties with Israel and at the very least to expel the Israeli Ambassador from Turkey, he replied, in his characteristic vernacular style “We are running the Turkish Republic, not a grocery store.”
Indeed, which is why he dispatched his Foreign Minister and Chief Foreign Policy Adviser, Prof Ahmet Davutoðlu, to Cairo to lend Turkey’s support to the Franco-Egyptian sponsored ceasefire negotiations.
It has been the AKP Government’s willingness to take tentative and difficult steps, and withstand the emotive reactions of its detractors that has helped it develop its policy of making friends and not enemies in its neighbourhood. Its relations with Greece, Russia and Armenia have all benefited from Davutoðlu’s wisdom and Erdoðan’s charisma.
Turkey boldly invited Head of Hamas Political Bureau, Khalid Mish‘al, after Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, a move furiously protested against by the Israeli Government at the time. It meant that Mish‘al’s visit had to be demoted from an official engagement to a meeting with party’s officials and no audience granted with Erdoðan himself.
And from strong Syrian-Turkish animosity in the late 1990s, when the PKK Leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was taking refuge in Syria, Turkey has moved to a situation where it is able to confidently mediate in peace talks between Syria and Israel. The question now faced by Turks is whether the AKP has succeeded at all in using her relationship with Israel to lean on an ally, using her own example of courageous first steps, to help the peace process along and normalise relations between Israel and the Arab regimes.
There are those who have argued that Turkey, better than others, should appreciate Israel’s behaviour given that Turkey herself had crossed into northern Iraq to conduct operations against PKK terrorists that threatened Turkey’s own security. Turkey’s actions then, similarly, merited muted responses from the Bush administration given her importance to the US Government and the reconstruction effort in Iraq.
Perhaps the analogy is more revealing in it what it tells us of the crimes that can be committed if the devil being resisted is terrorism. And the term itself indiscriminately employed in the same way the ‘war on terror’ phrase was and is deployed to quell and silence legitimate opposition to a government’s excesses.
Of concern to those that have trusted in Turkey’s goodwill in mediating for peace is the prospect, given prime ministerial and ministerial statements, of impartiality on the part of Turkey in future talks. While Turkish-Israeli relations are unlikely to remain sour or strained for long, particularly given the close co-operation and regular joint exercises between their respective militaries, the statements made by Erdoðan and others in his Government will be exploited by neo-cons in the US and Israel that work to undermine the AKP’s orientation by throwing at it a pejorative rendering of the term ‘Islamist’.
The critical voices of AKP ministers and deputies will be seized upon as examples of a leopard not having changed its spots.
There are those also that will see in Turkey’s manoeuvres a tactical move in service of aggrandising her role as a powerful and important regional actor. And with domestic troubles like the Ergenekon case continuing to uncover further plots and personalities that are accused of supporting an anti AKP coup, rallying the support of Turks who are outraged over Gaza seems a useful decoy in deflecting attention from events closer to home.
Cool relations with Europe also offers Erdoðan’s Government the opportunity to impress on Europe one of Turkey’s most frequently cited arguments in support of her membership bid – that Europe needs Turkey to realise its aspiration of being a strong and credible actor in international politics.
And there is no doubt that the “new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” that US President Barak Obama hopes for in his forging of a new era in relations between the US and the Muslim world, will require a considerable presence from Turkey.
The hope that Turkey does hold out, as her response to the Gaza crisis demonstrates, is her willingness to be the kind of critical friend to Israel that former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, failed to be to the ex-President George Bush. And if President Obama is true to his word of wanting to enhance mutual interest and mutual respect in US relations with the Muslim world, there are lessons in friendship that Turkey can teach him far better than almost all the other Muslim majority states.
Elif Aydýn is a Researcher.
USE AS QUOTE: The hope that Turkey does hold out, as her response to the Gaza crisis demonstrates, is her willingness to be the kind of critical friend to Israel that former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, failed to be to the ex-President George Bush.
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