Turkey has appointed former Ramallah Consul General Sakir Ozkan Torunlar ambassador to the “State of Palestine,” the latest in a long line of diplomatic gambits which have put Ankara at odds with Israel.
The announcement comes days after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Zionism a “crime against humanity” and after it was revealed that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu refused to shake the hand of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a Munich security summit. Turkish-Israeli relation have been particularly strained since Israeli commandos were attacked as they intercepted a Gaza-bound vessel filled with Turkish activists, some of whom had announced they wanted to be martyrs, leading to a fight in which several of the activists were killed. International negotiators had hoped the talks at Munich could restore relations, but Davutoglu reportedly told Barak there will always be distance between Jerusalem and Ankara until Israel meets Turkish demands.
Those demands include, among other things, that Israel lift its blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. U.S. foreign policy analysts consider the condition a non-starter given Iranian missile shipments to the terrorist group. The Israelis have offered a series of alternative concessions and overtures intended to build confidence and restore relations, but have been rebuffed.
Instead Turkey’s Islamist leadership has engaged in increasingly shrill anti-Israel bluster, up to and including darkly threatening to retaliate for Israel’s suspected attack on advanced Syrian weaponry thought to have been in transit to Hezbollah. The posture has left Ankara sidelined in the context of Israeli-Arab diplomacy:
Turkey finds itself largely shut out of the central and defining Arab-Israeli conflict. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan helped seal that reality speaking at an Islamic conference in Istanbul when he called Israel a “terrorist state.” At a parliamentary meeting on Tuesday that was broadcast on Turkish television, he said Israel was guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” Moreover, Mr. Erdogan’s stance continues to play well with his domestic constituency of conservative Muslims, making a reconciliation with Israel even more difficult, even if he were interested in winning back Turkey’s seat at the negotiation table, said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East security expert at Georgetown University.
The erosion of Turkish influence in Israeli-Palestinian affairs mirrors a broader collapse of Ankara’s foreign policy throughout the region.
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