Middle Israel: A day in the life of Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“The Hitler spirit, which dragged the world into a major disaster, has risen again among some Israeli officials.”

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend his election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018 (photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend his election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018
Our correspondent was, for several hours, a fly on the wall in the Turkish president’s chambers.
Seated regally in one of the 1,150 rooms of the palace he built with the taxpayer’s $615 million, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan closed his eyes while an aide read to him a translation of The Economist’s recent analysis of democracy’s global retreat.
“A democracy typically declines like this,” the assistant recited while visitors could be seen out the window ambling silently between the campus’s marble atriums, atomic bunker, botanical gardens and manicured lawns.
First, explained the world’s most important newsweekly, crisis produces a democratically elected, charismatic leader who promises salvation; then he invents enemies; then he attacks his country’s independent institutions, and finally he changes the rules “to make it harder for voters to dislodge him.”
“TRUE” said the president, recalling how he rose to power following his secularist predecessors’ incessant squabbling and mismanagement, and how he later hollered at Shimon Peres during the 2009 Davos Conference that Israel was murdering Palestinians at will, a claim he then peppered with the altogether fantastic, “I remember two former prime ministers in your country who said they felt very happy when they were able to enter Palestine on tanks” (The Guardian, 30 January, 2009).
Yes, inventing enemies was crucial, he concurred, recalling how he completed that task by provoking the following year’s clash with the Israeli navy, all of which undid a strategic alliance between the Jewish state and what once was the Muslim world’s only democracy.
“Historians,” he now thought to himself, “will debate whether my waging war on the Kurds in 2015 after I launched peace talks with their leader in 2013 can be counted as inventing an enemy. Never mind that the Kurds had been at war with Turkey well before I came along; their party, HDP, dared siphon most of the 9% of the vote that my party lost that year as they soared from 5% to 13% and we plunged from 50% to 41%. I therefore had to bomb their villages, it was my democratic duty.”
“Historians will also wonder whether my nemesis Fethullah Gulen’s record as I portray it is real or invented. They will, however, all agree that I used the coup which I attribute to him in order to follow The Economist’s third rule of undoing democracy, which is to attack your own country’s independent institutions.”
“Now, what had begun the previous decade when I framed generals, fired police brass, and rattled the judiciary was crowned by arrests of thousands of professors, teachers, journalists, and politicians; the closure of newspapers and TV stations; wresting the remaining media and depleting academia, so no one in Turkey will even just think of lifting a finger without this palace-dweller’s consent.”
Erdogan’s self-congratulation peaked when the aide reached the fourth milestone in The Economist’s roadmap, the changing of the rules.
“Boy did I change the rules,” muttered the president, “I banned free speech, I undid Ataturk’s secular revolution, and I became executive president.”
The phone rang. The assistant held the receiver and said, “it’s your son-in-law,” referring to the newly appointed Finance Minister.
“TELL THEM zero,” said the president, referring to the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey’s monetary-committee meeting scheduled for that Tuesday. The central bank had been the last bastion of institutional independence, resisting Erdogan’s demand for cheap money by steadily raising interest rates, all the way to 17.75%, so as to combat the borrow-and-spend culture Erdogan was cultivating.
“Tell them I changed the rules,” he ordered his beloved Esra’s husband, “they say high interest rates defeat inflation; I say they fan it.”
Like the generals, the cops, the judges, the media, and the academics before them, the economists were now finally floored, having issued their decision to leave interest rates unchanged, and thus ignore market expectation that they raise rates closer to 20%.
An email’s arrival pinged from the laptop opposite the assistant. “It’s the currency markets,” reported the aide.
“What are they saying?” asked the aspiring sultan.
“They just shaved another 3% from the lira,” he calculated, as the charts blinked that the currency which three years [earlier] traded at 2.8 to the dollar had just crossed 4.8 and was now marching confidently toward the psychologically unpredictable five-to-the-dollar barrier.
A finger knocked on the door. The assistant opened a crack and without admitting the intruder turned his head and informed the boss: “It’s inflation.”
“What does it want?” asked the strongman.
“It says it’s just reached 15.4%, and intends to continue climbing.”
“Call the foreign minister,” came the order, shortly before the aide said the chief diplomat was on the line. “What’s happening in the Jewish state?” asked the boss.
“They just passed a new law, something about their land being their land.”
“Good,” said the emperor, recalling the utility of invented enemies while returning the smartphone to the assistant, picking a gold plated fountain pen, ironing with his palm a clean sheet of presidential stationary and jotting on it resolutely: “The Hitler spirit, which dragged the world into a major disaster, has risen again among some Israeli officials.”
A hand emerged from the wall opposite the window, and while the president wrote on his paper, the hand now wrote silently on the presidential chamber’s wall:
“In 1492, when Spain expelled its Jews, [and] your predecessor, Sultan Bayezid II, welcomed them. Bayezid’s realm then prospered while in Spain inflation soared, debt ballooned, and the kingdom went bankrupt.
Centuries earlier, Emperor Constantine gathered in your country bishops from across his empire for a conference in which he declared Christianity’s enmity to the Jews. The Christians ultimately split and fought each other in a war that lasted thirty years and killed every fifth European.
More recently, the Soviet Union incited the Arab world – as you do – to fight the Jewish state. The Soviets are gone, the Israelis are still there. 
"No invention of a Jewish enemy ended happily, Recep Tayyip Erdgoan. Ask Hitler.”