Turkish Mayor Bulent Tanik is in Israel this week shopping for peace.
spite of the tense relations between his country and Israel, he wants to pair
his city of Cankaya, a district of the capital Ankara, with a sister one
But his is not a one-stop-shop dream.
He is in the process of
initiating a sister city program with Ramallah. If all goes well, he told The
on Sunday, he wants to link his city and Ramallah, with one in
Israel, in an unusual kind of triple city project.
He does not know if
such a project is possible, he said, but it is a dream of his that he wants to
turn into reality.
“In Turkey, we have an idiom, divorce is easy for an
unmarried bachelor,” he said.
He is among those who believe that overall
ties will improve, if relations are built on the local
Historically, he said, Turkey has always played the role of a mediator. In a small way, he said, his city can play that role
Tanik is under no illusions that he can make grand
He was careful in his short interview to explain that his visit
here is neither diplomatic nor political. “My coming is not a political
statement,” he said.
As he sat in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel, the
gray-haired man with a mustache looked like any other visiting
He is one of 37 mayors from 28 countries in Israel for a
four-day conference organized by the American Council for World Jewry. He has
joined the trip, as any mayor would, he said, out of curiosity and a desire to
improve domestic ties between his district and Israel.
It is his first
trip to this country, whose politics play such a strong role in the region in
which he lives.
“It is important to visit Israel if you are really
interested in the political happenings in the Middle East and our region,” Tanik
The two countries share the same geography and have a common fate,
He plans to spend the week learning about Israel and to build
relations with mayors from around the world. As long as he is here, he said, he
also wants to explore the possibility of linking a Turkish, Israeli and
There are other Israeli sister city projects with
Turkey. Adana is linked with Beersheba. And Izmir has a program with Hod
Hasharon and Tel Aviv.
But there is no such triple linked
Cankaya, according to Tanik, has a population of
But between those who work in that section of the city, and
visitors, the daily population can swell to 2.5 million.
As a mayor he
has to be concerned by both international and local issues. The city, Tanik
said, boasts 10 universities and 92 embassies.
Although he is only
halfway through his first day on the program, he felt as though he had already
made new friends and colleagues.
In his first morning in Jerusalem, Tanik
said, he heard a speech from Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor and the
head of Prime Minister’s Office technology department.
He followed this
by a visit to Yad Vashem. It is not his first experience with honoring the
memory of those who died in the Holocaust. He has also in the past visited a
number of concentration camps in Europe.
People have a responsibility to
remember what happened and what the Nazis did, he said.
“I hope that the
world will never again see such a terrible event,” he said.
That is why
it is important to build bridges between different people, he said.
city, he said, has a lot to gain from Israel in the arena of business,
specifically tourism, textiles, technology and agriculture.
to be better economic ties between his region and Israel, he said.
true, he said, that it is impossible to fully develop a relationship in these
areas without restoring positive Israeli- Turkish ties. In the interim, he said,
it was still possible to move forward.
“To understand each other and to
work together politically is so important, otherwise the economic cooperation
are not safe. If there is no political stability, the economic relations cannot
increase,” he said.
But the economic relations can foster ties even when
diplomatic relations are strained, he said.
It can act, he said, as a
drop of water, in an otherwise dry ground.