WikiLeaks Cables Show U.S.-Israel Fear of 'Fundamentalist' Erdogan

'He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading,' warns Israel's top diplomat in Turkey in leaked report.

Top diplomats in Ankara see Turkey's prime minister as a religious "fundamentalist" committed to spreading hatred against Israel, according to the contents of a secret cable published Monday.

The dispatch by the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, details a conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Ambassador Gaby Levy and points to a shared assessment of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a demagogue whose policies are fueled by "hatred" rather than political calculations.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan AP

It is among an array of classified U.S. documents released by the WikiLeaks group over the weekend, sparking alarm among diplomats the world over with a series of startling revelations.

In his report to superiors in Washington, dated October 29, 2009, Jeffrey - who has since been posted to Iraq - quotes Levy as saying that Erdogan's repeated outbursts against Israel were for "domestic consumption only".

"He's a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading," Levy is reported to have said, attributing Erdogan's harshness to deep-seated emotion. Turkish civil servants had advised Israel to weather the prime minister's harsh rhetoric until ties improved, Levy said.

Levy went on to dismiss politics as a motivator for Erdogan's hostility, arguing that the prime minister's AK party had not gained a single point in the polls by bashing Israel.

In his cable to the State Department, Jeffrey agreed with the Israeli assessment.

"Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey's deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy's thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel," he wrote.

NATO doubts

Other cables show U.S. diplomats casting further doubts on the reliability of Erdogan and Turkey as a NATO ally, portraying the nations's leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists, according to the German Der Spiegel magazine's website.

Der Spiegel, citing U.S. diplomatic documents released on Sunday by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, said advisers to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were described as having "little understanding of politics beyond Ankara".

Erdogan has introduced sweeping liberal economic reforms in pursuit of Europan Union membership since his AK Party was first elected by a landslide in 2002. He denies accusations by secularists that he harbours secret Islamist ambitions.

Der Spiegel cited a cable as saying Erdogan had surrounded himself with an "iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors".

Erdogan on Monday downplayed the publications. Speaking in Istanbul before travelling to Libya for an Africa-European Union summit Erdogan said the credibility of the Wikileaks website that leaked the documents was "questionable", Turkey's news
agency reported.

"That's why we're waiting to see what comes from Wikileaks. Then we can evaluate it and give an opinion," he said.

Turkey has traditionally close relations with Washington, but ties have been strained of late, partly as a result of Ankara's falling out with Israel over its invasion of Gaza.

"The leaked diplomatic cables reveal that U.S. diplomats are skeptical about Turkey's dependability as a partner ... The leadership in Ankara is depicted as divided and permeated by Islamists."