Diplomacy

Amid Domestic Criticism Over Anti-Jewish Bias, Turkey Official Leaks Reconciliation Talks Progress

Turkish officials on Thursday leaked to Turkish media that normalization talks with Israel are going just fine:

Talks to normalize frayed relations between Israel and Turkey “are on track and can be concluded at any time,” Today’s Zaman reported on Thursday, citing a Turkish official. “This should not surprise anyone. I do not see any political obstacle standing in the way of normalization,” the official reportedly said.

The articles comes amid intense criticism of Ankara – coming from both analysts and diplomats, both inside Turkey and abroad – over the pace and prospects of the negotiations. Reports had indicated that efforts to secure rapprochement between Jerusalem and Ankara had become deadlocked. Turkey was reportedly demanding up to $100 million in compensation for Israel’s 2010 interception of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Nine people aboard the vessel were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who intercepted the ship.

Last week Turkish political scientist Dogu Ergil – who is no particular fan of the Jewish state – took to Turkish media to open fret that the Turkish establishment’s hardline position was being driven by anti-Jewish bias, to the detriment of Turkish national interests:

One of the scapegoats for Turkey — and Islamic societies in general, for that matter — is Israel. If Israel is too small for the problems faced, then it is the international Jewish lobby with money and global leverage. They rule the world, often covertly. Accusing Jews of everything that goes wrong is easy; one has no need to understand the causality behind the blunders made at home. All that is necessary is to resist the Jewish lobby and to distance oneself from Israel. Such a view obfuscates the vision of politicians and limits the foreign policy of nations… In the last decade, Turkish political considerations related to Israel have alternated between pragmatism and ideology. The ruling Turkish politicians know that reconciliation with Israel will strengthen Turkey’s hand in international matters, but ideology, namely their own bias (shared by a large part of the traditional society) against Jews has often overwhelmed pragmatism.

The point echoes one made a few weeks ago by Georgetown Turkey expert Michael Koplow. He described the “paranoia” of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan as being at “an all-time high.” Koplow worried that anti-Jewish theories floated by Erdogan blaming Israel for the Egytpian army’s moves against the country’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood-linked government were signs of a “continuing crackup.” He also gestured toward a percipitous decline in Turkey’s regional position: Ankara has seen its relations plummet with Egypt, Israel, the Sunni bloc centered in the Gulf, and the Shiite bloc dominated by Iran.

[Photo: Kremlin.ru / Wiki Commons]