Comment / How do Turkey and Israel measure each other's love?
Israel should learn to utilize ties with Turkey, the only Muslim country not criticized for such relations.
Once in a while Israel picks a Turkish daisy and begins pulling off its petals one at a time: "She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not." Last week it was "she loves me not." How is Turkey's love for Israel measured? Is it by expelling Israel from a joint military exercise and showing a television series on the Israel Defense Forces' supposed activities in the territories, or by purchases of military equipment and intelligence cooperation? And how does Turkey measure Israel's love? By Israel pushing Turkey out of all diplomatic efforts on the Palestinian issue, or by the Jewish lobby's actions in the United States favoring Turkey, mostly against efforts to define the Armenian holocaust as genocide?
It seems that in the two countries' relations, terms like "love" and "betrayal" have replaced the correct terminology of interests and strategic partnership. Israel feels betrayed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's verbal assault, rushing to link Turkey with the "Islamic-Iranian-Syrian" axis of evil. And perhaps Turkey can't come to terms with Israel's lack of consideration for what it considers most important: allowing it to take part in regional diplomacy. The region's sole Muslim country with genuine "ties of love" with Israel finds itself cast aside like a useless piece of equipment, at a time when she is offering to be a partner.
Because in Israel's eyes, Turkey is seen as two states - one in the form of the military, twin sister of Israel, the other political, leaning toward Islam and making friends with Syria and Iran. Thus, insolent Israel decided in a typical manner not to take Turkey's politicians seriously and to adopt the Turkish army. Israel was also certain all these years that Turkey, backward and poor, needed its sole friend in the Middle East because it was not accepted in the region due to its Ottoman history and close ties with Israel and the United States, and therefore could not do without Israel.
So in Israel, people have been quick to conclude that "something went wrong" in Turkey. Suddenly the government rules the army instead of the army, Israel's loyal friend, telling the government what to do. Israelis did not think for a minute that the Turkish army might also have had enough.
Turkey has changed; inwardly, for the most part. In a long and difficult process it has become a more democratic country. The army is still dominant, but less public in its role in the civilian domain. Turkey has overcome most of its economic problems and has been transformed into a regional economic power. It is a real strategic asset for the United States, increasing its importance after the Iraq war. It has also developed a different regional strategy.
Whoever reads what Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says recognizes that Turkey aspires to become an influential player not only in the Middle East but also in the Caucasus and Asia. It is involved in the fighting in Afghanistan, is forming an economic alliance with Iraq, plans to invest billions of dollars in Egypt, and its annual trade with Iran stands at $9 billion, with Syria at $1.5 billion.
And here is the paradox. This is the only Muslim country that is not harshly criticized, whether by Iran or any Arab state, for having such close ties with Israel. As such, it could have served as an excellent mediator between Israel and the Arab countries had Israel not considered it an obvious satellite state.
Turkey is not a saint. Its modern history is replete with terrible events including the destruction of thousands of Kurdish villages, the eviction of millions of people, bombing sometimes without proper distinguishing of targets, political arrests and torture. This is also why it has considered Israel an ally. But the moment comes when even evil countries don a suit and tie and ask to join a new club that allegedly is honorable and carries out "just wars." Israel, which is certain that all its wars are just, still doesn't understand where it went wrong.
Turkey, the second Muslim country after Iran to recognize Israel in 1949, is neither kicking Israel nor changing its spots. But it doesn't want its ally to embarrass it, whether in front of its own public or its other allies.