By Barry Rubin
Why have Israel-Turkey relations gone from alliance to what seems to be the verge of war?
The foolish think that the breakdown is due to the recent
Such conclusions are totally misleading. It was already clear—and in private every Israeli expert dealing seriously with
When the Turkish armed forces were an important part of the regime, they promoted the alliance because they saw
(Incidentally, how secure is the high-level military technology sold by the
At first, this outcome was not so obvious. The AK Party won its first election by only a narrow margin. To keep the
Yet as the AK majorities in election rose, the government became more confident. No longer did it stress that it was just a center-right party with family values. The regime steadily weakened the army, using EU demands for civilian power. As it repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy, the AK’s arrogance, and thus its willingness to go further and throw off its mask, grew steadily.
And then, on top of that, the regime saw that the
Earlier this year, the situation became even more absurd as
Then there is the theatrical demagoguery of Erdogan himself who threw a choreographed fit at the Davos conference because
And so with electoral victories; advancing control over
A few weeks ago, the Turkish prime minister said that
The current Turkish government hates
Lately for the first time, however, the AK government began to run into domestic problems. The poor status of the economy, the growing discontent of many Turks with creeping Islamism in the society, and finally the election for the first time of a popular leader for the opposition party, began to give hope that next year’s elections might bring down the regime. Indeed, polls showed the AK sinking into or very close to second place. With the army neutered, elections are the only hope of getting
Now, however, the corpses of those killed after they or their colleagues attacked Israeli soldiers will probably guarantee AK's victory. As one Turkish columnist put it, the AK, "will sail on this wind into a third term in power."
This is a prize well worth sacrificing Israeli trade and tourism. And the action is all the more attractive since
But even that is not all. On September 12,
In light of national solidarity and outrage over the
A Turkish colleague gave a good guideline for dealing with the Turkish government's defection to the other side and march toward Islamism some time ago, an analogy most ironic given the nautical nature of the
Even within the AK party there were more moderate elements, mostly those who joined from non-Islamist center-right parties. When I hosted the Turkey-Israel parliamentary friendship committee, these were the people most eager for good relations, because they saw this alliance as a check on the more extremist forces in their own party.
But then the
This campaign set up the intensification of the regime’s manipulation of the two powerful symbols in
A national hysteria has been whipped up. In huge demonstrations, Palestinian flags were waved and slogans should like: “Stop military collaboration with the Israeli army,” “Kill all the Israelis,” “Allah akbar,” “Death to the Jews,” and “Attack
This has taken on dangerous proportions. For example, an article in the Islamist newspaper Zaman claims that
Even the opposition parties, persuaded or intimidated by nationalist fervor, shouted their outrage, with a unanimous vote in parliament supporting the regime's stance. The Turkish media censored out almost everything that challenged the narrative of peace-loving demonstrators brutally attacked. Thus, Turks--largely locked into only there own media due to language--don't have the basis to question what they are being told.
I do not mean to suggest here that
The AK government had three demands: all Turks be released immediately, something Israel had already announced would happen but the regime pretended only came about due to its tough stance; there should be an international investigation; and Israel must pay compensation.
Indeed, Erdogan said something very revealing of his true intentions.
Incidentally, I think there is one hidden price
Another is the increased antagonism in the
Is this demagogic mobilization of nationalist and religious passions the magic weapon the AK will use to gain reelection next year? Many Turks think so and are angry at
But for the AK government to succeed in gaining a political advantage, it’s going to have to create several more crises to keep nationalist fervor stoked.
Unnoticed in the hoopla and hysteria surrounding this incident was the Turkish government’s insulting treatment of the
Quickly, U.S statements came into line. One might ask why the
Yet such is what has become normal in these times and under this
He said: "I think
Any idea of saving Israel-Turkey warm relations is an illusion as long as the AK party remains in power in
As long as the AK party remains in power this is only the beginning of its unfolding friction with the West. For one thing, the regime will demand that
This internal battle, however, is far from over.
One of these options is the best hope for
The question now becomes: how much will this Turkish government sabotage
A note to Turkish readers. I can hear some of you saying: You are blaming
Think also of what this is doing to your country. When martyrdom is celebrated as public funerals; when individual Turks can decide to take over the country's international policy by choosing to attack the soldiers of another country; when Jihad replaces "peace at home, peace in the world," is this not taking
Will this approach bring to
May this dreadful prophecy never come to be.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.