Lately, it seems Turkey is showing a more conciliatory stance vis-àvis Israel. A
senior Turkish official told Yediot Aharonot recently that the two countries
must now “avoid escalation,” quiet down “the verbal incitement” and once the
crisis ends the Israeli prime minister would be “welcome in Ankara.”
salvage the relations Turkey is “only” asking Israel “to issue some sort of an
apology and compensate the victims’ families.”
contradictory statements by Turkish leaders, some escalating the
others calming tensions, are the result of two conflicting constraints:
attempt by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use the May 31
to strengthen the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party before
critical September 12 referendum and the growing pressure by the US to
Turkey as an important ally.
The attempts to mend fences with Israel
began at the end of June, when Industry, Trade and Labor Minister
Ben-Eliezer secretly met Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels,
apparently due to pressure from the Obama administration.
Barack Obama reportedly warned Erdogan that actions Turkey has taken in
relations with Israel and its vote against sanctions on Iran “have
in Congress” concerning its standing as an ally. He allegedly called on
to cool its rhetoric about the flotilla raid.
Also, for the first time in
the USTurkey relationship, the House Foreign Affairs Committee conducted
special hearing on whether Turkey’s axis is indeed shifting, and
congressmen blocked the appointment of Francis Ricciardone as ambassador
Turkey, because he is seen as “too soft to deal with the Turkish
As a consequence, Turkish policymakers are planning to
intensify contacts with Congress, after a series of talks in Washington
a high-level Turkish delegation and senior administration officials.
formation of an international commission under the auspices of the UN
secretary-general to look into the events surrounding the flotilla
considered a victory for Turkish diplomacy and its results crucial for
But the US approach to the international commission focused
on reconciling Israel and Turkey and proposing “recommendations as to
avoid such incidents in the future,” a statement that angered
ISRAEL DECIDED on an independent public commission with
international observers to examine the maritime incident. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, in his testimony before the commission declared that
tension with Turkey was Ankara’s choice and left the door open for
surprising decision to cooperate with the UN commission also reflected
interest in maintaining good ties with Turkey.
Turkey for its part
decided on a national commission under the coordination of the Prime
Office, with the participation of bureaucrats from the Foreign, Justice,
Transportation and Interior ministries for investigating “the treatment
persons in the convoy had been exposed.”
No word about its
responsibilities in the incident.
Moreover, Turkish prosecutors launched
an investigation against top Israeli leaders, which could result in
charges of murder and assault on Turkish citizens on the high seas and
Other negative Turkish moves included a meeting in mid-July
between Davutoglu and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to discuss efforts to
rift between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas claimed the talks also covered
efforts “to break the Israeli embargo” on Gaza.
Israel’s envoy to Turkey
has not been invited lately to the annual Iftar dinner hosted by AKP for
representatives of the diplomatic corps, an unprecedented hostile
The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that Turkish
intelligence personnel and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have
an agreement to assist Hizbullah by transferring weapons from Iran to
Lebanon through Turkey.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied the
The Turks were already infuriated by Defense Minister Ehud
Barak’s claim that the new head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan,
“friend of Iran” and that military information provided to Turkey might
handed over to the Iranians.
The Turkish opposition accused Erdogan of
seeking a confrontation with Israel to advance his internal nationalist
credentials before the September referendum and planning to advance the
scheduled elections of July 2011.
According to the Turkish daily
Hürriyet, the “Hamas-friendly” AKP government “cannot afford to give any
impression to the public that it accepted anything short of an
inquiry that will ultimately find Israel guilty” and unless a settlement
reached which enables both sides to save face “matters will continue to
On September 12, Turkish voters will go to the polls to approve
or reject “revolutionary constitutional changes” proposed by the AKP
which are intended to consolidate its influence, particularly in the
If the AKP wins the referendum and thus continues to tighten
its grip on the media, military andjudiciary, it will persevere on the
Islamization and the shunning of Israel.
A sign in this direction is
Turkey’s reaction to the latest terrorist attacks in Israel intended to
the peace negotiations in Washington.
Turkey “welcomed the resumption of
direct talks between Israel and Palestine” and stated that “it was
avoid unilateral acts which would negatively affect the process,” but
nothing about the Hamas responsibility for the “heroic” murder of four
civilians last week.The writer is senior research scholar
International Institute for Counterterrorism and the Institute for
Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.