The crisis in Israeli-Turkish relationship could deteriorate to the point of a breakup, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said on Wednesday.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Indyk, currently the Brookings Institute's vice president for foreign policy, said that the "three brakes" that had prevented Turkey under the Islamic-rooted AK party from drifting toward the Arab world and away from Israel were the Turkish military, its business class, and the "peace process."
Each of these brakes has been loosened over the last two years - the military has been pushed back into the barracks and no longer has influence over government policy as it once did; the business class is feeling considerable heat from the government and is in no position to stand up and say that ties with Israel are economically important; and the peace process - both with Syria and the Palestinians - is nonexistent, he said.
"I think that it is serious because it is like a car with an accelerator and no brake," said Indyk, who participated this week in President Shimon Peres's Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, arriving directly from meetings in Istanbul.
"I think it is a serious deterioration in the relationship, and it could lead to a breakup. It's not like it hasn't happened before. Israel lost a relationship with the whole of Africa, and had to rebuild it. It could happen," he said.
Indyk said that the crisis has been exacerbated by a personal dimension, "which is always problematic."
According to Indyk, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was mediating indirect talks between Israel and Syria, felt personally betrayed by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert when Olmert did not say a word about a possible military action in Gaza last December when he visited Istanbul, when it appeared that the Turkish-mediated Israeli-Syrian pre-negotiations were moving to some kind of successful conclusion. The IDF offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip began shortly thereafter.
"Erdogan felt personally slighted, and then of course his attack was not on Olmert, but on Peres, who as a result also felt slighted."
Indyk was referring to Erdogan's upbraiding of Peres at the Davos economic summit in January, followed by his walking off the stage in a tiff. Indyk made clear that this did not endear Turkey as a mediator to Peres.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came into office in March, he was in no hurry to negotiate with the Syrians in any event, Indyk said, adding that after Peres's experience in Davos, the president felt that involving the Turks in the mediation only complicated Israel's relationship with Ankara.
Asked what he thought Israel could do to prevent a further deterioration of ties, Indyk laughed and said he had an "all-purpose solution to every problem that has to do with Israel - make peace, and everything will be all right."
He said that if Israel would pursue negotiations on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks, "it would be a lot easier to deal with this type of collateral damage, and with issues like the Goldstone Report. But you can't beat something with nothing."
If you have nothing moving on either the Palestinian or Syrian tracks, he said, "It's like the old bicycle metaphor: If you are not peddling forward you fall off."