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Turkey-Israel: Who should better think?

Saturday 24 October 2009, by Cengiz Çandar

CENGİZ ÇANDAR

Turkey-Israel relations are gone to pot. This is unacceptable for some narrow-minded Americans because U.S. has two allies in the Middle East; one is Israel and the other is Turkey. Is it acceptable that Turkey moves away from “democratic” Israel and gets closer to “non-democratic” countries in the region?

I sense some sort of a threat in this approach. Turkey’s, or rather Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s, negative attitude toward Israel will cost a lot to Turkey and the country would be harmed by that. Meaning, Turkey should watch its steps. These are old-fashioned viewpoints and assessments that all should be left in the past. Is Turkey or Israel more important for U.S. global interest in 2009? That is worth discussing.

Turkey is extremely important for U.S. “vital interests” lying from Central Asia, to the Caucasus, from the Balkans to the Middle East. In this key geopolitical area Turkey cannot have any pecuniary advantage from Israel. For that matter Israel is a headache for the White House. Strobe Talbott said a few days ago that President Barack Obama’s popularity in Israel fell to its lowest rate, below 10 percent.

Every U.S. attempt to protect Israel causes trouble. The U.S. has pressured the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to delay the approval of the Goldstone Report (Fact Finding Mission Report) at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Israeli war crime in Gaza. Strangely enough, the report was prepared by a South African Jewish Judge Richard Goldstone. But in the end, the Council approved the report on vote. Abbas (Abu Mazen) has lost credibility before Palestinian people. Abbas’ political rival Hamas benefited from the situation.

An Israeli veteran journalist Nahum Barnea says the Israeli government expects U.S. to take Turkey under control against Israel. Turkey has believed for a decade that having good relations with Israel is a must to influence U.S. In other words, the understanding of “a way to Washington goes through Tel Aviv” has spread. But now Tel Aviv is trying to reach Ankara via Washington.

Everyone who has nothing to say against U.S. support to Israel harms himself as in the case of Abbas.

***

What do you say about the following assessment?

“For years Israel has acted as if the unconditional support of the US would be enough to shield it for ever from the consequences of its behavior – which is why last week was an unusually traumatic one for them.”

“No suicide bombers detonated themselves and no rockets or mortar shells fell, but the double whammy of a Turkish snub and a UN Human Rights Council vote shook Israelis even more than any aimless shelling would have done. Those two events signal profound changes that leave Israel paying a growing political price for the attack last winter that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and reduced Gaza to ruble,” writes Tony Karon in the National daily.

The point we have reached in Turkey-Israel relations shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone. As the two countries were on an unrealistic “honeymoon” a decade ago due to a military cooperation, I gave a statement to the Israeli television as well as pro-Israel American think-tanks. Staunch supports of this solidarity, Israelis in particular, were annoyed by my remarks. I had warned Israelis, this “honeymoon” was unreal and unhealthy and it depended on not the will of Turkish people but of the “military-civilian” team with a mindset of the Feb. 28 process. I also claimed that the honeymoon would be over when a democratic government rules the country.

Israelis did not pay attention to elected representatives and feelings of Turkish people. They assumed the relation established with the “state” and the “military” of Turkey would be enough and eternal. As Turkey has turned more of a democratic country, relations with Israel could not remain as the way before.

Israel’s Gaza assault coincided with a government period in Turkey where the government came to power with 47 percent support of Turkish people and aimed high to play a more effective role in the Middle East. The “honeymoon” is over. It was, as a matter of fact, not between the two nations. It was not sentimental enough.

***

Groups having the thought that Turkey would pay the price for deteriorating bilateral relations are making a mistake. The Haaretz daily’s editorial titled “Unnecessary Duel” on Oct. 19 fiercely criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying that Turkey can no longer be an “honest broker” in talks with Syria.

The editorial concluded as:

“If it [Turkey] is removed from the list of honest brokers. Rather, it is Israel, which is liable to lose an important channel of communications that could facilitate future talks with Damascus.”

The rightist Jerusalem Post wrote on Oct. 20 that Turkey’s National Day (Oct. 29) reception becomes a question of whether cabinet members should attend or boycott is becoming an issue in light of the recent nosedive in Turkish-Israeli relations. Israeli Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said that he would not attend Turkey’s annual reception, and that it could not be that “they spit in our face and we say it’s rain. I don’t intend to go, and I hope that my colleagues will act in the same manner.”

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz also said that he would not attend the reception.

But a veteran politician and military member Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, characterized the ties with Turkey as “strategic,” and said they should be “preserved at all costs.” He said he would definitely attend the reception.

As seen, Israel is discussing relations with Turkey and the Israeli government is being criticized for that.

It is needless to be arrested by inferiority complex in Turkey. Israel shouldn’t have “immunity” and Turkey has already removed it. That was a difficult task to do. But Turkey managed.

And Israel, rather than Turkey, would pay the price.

It is the time to go beyond the ordinary.

* Mr. Cengiz Çandar is a columnist for daily Referans in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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Sources

Source: Hurriyet Daily news, le 21.10.09

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