'Erdogan winks to political right with populist rhetoric'

WikiLeaks: US cable shows Turkish PM sought support from right at expense of strong Turkey-Israel relationship.

January 3, 2011 23:29
2 minute read.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voting

311_erdogan voting. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The deterioration in Turkish- Israeli ties has much to do with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to gain domestic support from those on his political Right, according to a US cable placed on the WikiLeaks website on Monday.

The cable, written on October 13, 2009, by US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey and coming months before the Mavi Marmara incident that sent ties between the two countries on a downward spiral, said that while the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the “Turkish General Staff agree with us that a strong Turkey-Israel relationship is essential for regional stability, PM Erdogan has sought to shore up his domestic right political flank at the expense of this relationship.”

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Jeffrey wrote that while Erdogan’s “Islamist-leaning” Justice and Development Party is “squarely in the driver’s seat,” it “fears an erosion of its political base from more conservative/Islamist parties.”

Jeffrey wrote that Erdogan’s high-profile outburst against President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos shortly after Operation Cast Lead in 2009 was the “first in a series of events the results of which we and his staff have sought to contain. The latest of these was Exercise Anatolian Eagle. Erdogan canceled Israel’s participation hours before the exercise was to begin. With an Israeli strike – across Turkish airspace – against targets in Iran a possibility, Erdogan decided he could not afford the political risk of being accused of training the forces which would carry out such a raid. Through some remarkable work with Allies and with the inter-agency, we engineered a public ’postponement’ of the international portion of the exercise, but the relationship has begun to sour.”

The Anatolian Eagle exercise was a multilateral air force maneuver that was to include Turkey, Israel, the US and Italy, but it was cancelled by Ankara.

Three months later, on January 26, 2010, Jeffrey wrote in another memo that following Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s snub of the Turkish foreign minister by seating him on a low couch, the Turkish government almost recalled its ambassador and canceled the planned visit of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“However, the very public row was resolved with an Israeli apology and Barak’s visit on January 17 helped to stem the downward spiral for now,” Jeffrey wrote.

“Nevertheless, we assess that Erdogan is likely to continue anti-Israel remarks and the issues will continue to cast a shadow on the TU [Turkey]-IS [Israel] bilateral relationship.”

In that cable, Jeffrey described Erdogan’s rhetoric against Israel as “populist.”

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the latest Wikileaks

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