Turkey Foils Plot Against Israelis

Turkish media reported yesterday that local security forces carried out a series of raids throughout the country and apprehended 32 members of a cell suspected of links to Al-Qaida. According to the reports from Turkey, the cell was planning to carry out attacks against a number of American, Israeli and NATO targets.

The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported that the raid was carried out in eight different districts of the country and that, along with the suspects, the authorities confiscated documents linking the suspects with a terrorist organization.

The arrests were not meant to assuage Israel's anger over recent snubs by Ankara, particularly Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to deny participation of the Israel Air Force in a joint exercise with NATO in Turkey.

Turkey is keen to ensure that no terrorist organization takes root in the country, irrespective of its ties - be it Islamist, Kurdish or criminal.

Nonetheless, it seems that this time the operation may have been far greater than the threat. While there have been lethal attacks against Jewish, Israeli and western targets in Istanbul, this time there was no warning, nor were special security measures taken in advance.

The suspects may have had bad intentions, but they had very limited means - a single pistol, a few training manuals and some media resources. What the suspects were not heard saying on surveillance recordings, they may tell their interrogators.

Whether or not all the details are true, the developments do suggest something positive: that the Turks want to remind their counterparts in Israel and primarily in the United States that they still have a shared aim in combatting terrorism.

Indeed, this is not the first time suspects accused of being part of Islamist terrorist groups have been arrested this year in Turkey. In April, Turkish security forces arrested dozens belonging to both a local Islamic Jihad group and Kurdish Hezbollah. Both groups are known to have ties with Al-Qaida. Most of those arrested, like this time, were caught in Van, a city in the southeastern part of the country where large Kurdish communities reside.

In Israel these developments are watched with apprehension as they come at a time when the bastion of support for the close strategic ties between Israel and Turkey - the military - appears to have lost some of its control over the country's politicians. Coupled with Islamist and anti-Israel vitriol which is no longer limited to fringe groups, but often led by the country's prime minister, there are those who have questioned whether we are soon to witness a rerun of Iran in 1979.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday expressed the hope that "even though we are not calm about the trends we have been seeing in Turkey for some time, we hope that Turkey seeks to bolster peace and not extremist forces, and that it wishes to preserve its significant ties with Israel."