Turkey's Attitude Toward Israel Is Changing

Canceling Israel's participation in the exercise negates Turkey's division between civilians and military.

The cancelation of the joint military exercise marks a significant turn in Turkey?s attitude toward Israel, mostly because of the willingness of the Turkish military to join a decision of the government in Ankara.

What is even more serious is that were it not for the support of the military the government would not have been able to make or implement such an important decision, which has put Turkey at odds with the United States, Italy and other NATO members.

Traditionally there has been a "division of roles" between the Turkish army and the country's governments. The prime ministers and foreign ministers - including those preceding Recep Tayyip Erdogan - openly and sometimes rudely expressed their views on the policies of Israel, but the measure by which Israel weighed the bilateral ties were on the quality of relations with the Turkish military.

So long as the military enabled Israel to use Turkish airspace, benefited from intelligence cooperation and gave Israeli industry projects for upgrading military hardware or contracts for the supply of equipment, Israel considered Turkish statesmen a burden it could live with, and at times it even ignored them.

Canceling the participation of Israel in the exercise cancels for the first time the "division of roles" between the civilians and the military in Turkey and makes it clear to Israel that Turkey will now speak with a single voice.

At the same time it would be excessive to attribute to Turkey's intentions anything beyond the bilateral relations level. Turkey is not "evicting" Israel in favor of Iran or Syria and canceling Israel's participation does not stem from the fact that Turkey's government has decided to exhibit any extremist Islamist attitudes.

Turkey did not hide its deep opposition to Israel's policies in the territories in general and to Operation Lead Cast in particular. Erdogan's outburst against President Shimon Peres last January at the Davos gathering did not stem from Islamist or pro-Iranian objectives.

Erdogan's support for a UN deliberation of the Goldstone Report and his declaration that "those responsible for war crimes must be identified and held accountable," is not based on any wish to please Iran or Syria. Turkey has a steady and clear policy on this issue and it is not a proxy for any country.

Public opinion exists in Turkey too and it is influential, and when the prime minister sees thousands of Turks protesting against Israel's policy in Jerusalem, he cannot remain indifferent. At the same time, Turkey continues and will continue to have normal ties with Israel because such a relationship is part of Turkey's strategy, but today it finds itself in a different international status, of the sort that allows it to also take swipes at Israel.