A combination of political ideology and entrenched anti-Semitism within Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party threatens to derail efforts to reconcile with Israel – at significant cost to Ankara’s interests – according to an array of recently published analyses and reporting.
Relations between the two countries were frozen by the Islamist AKP government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Israel’s 2010 boarding of a Turkish vessel trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Commandos who boarded the ship were attacked by the passengers on board, and nine died in the ensuing fighting. In March Erdogan was maneuvered by U.S. President Barack Obama into accepting an Israeli proposal for reconciliation that he had long rejected as inadequate. The deal brought him under intense domestic pressure, and worries soon emerged that the Turkish premier was backsliding on Turkish commitments and undermining rapprochement.
Veteran Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel suggested this week that Erdogan and his AKP party are institutionally incapable of normalizing with Israel because, “as an Islamist government that has produced so much anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” it has lost the political and rhetorical option of doing so. The point was echoed by experts who gathered at a Tel Aviv conference this week, where the broad consensus was that Erdogan’s tactics of bolstering his domestic credibility via anti-Semitic appeals have undermined the chances for an improvement in bi-lateral relations:
Aviv described how Jews in Turkey live on edge, particularly because of the upsurge in tensions with Israel under the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
In public Turkish Jews tend not even to use the word “Israel,” she said, instead referring to “the state.”
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of BESA, said that Israel-bashing is a tool the regime uses to gain “popularity in the Muslim world.”
A recent poll of Israelis seems to confirm the sentiments, and a majority of Israelis now view a partial apology offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – which came as part of the deal brokered by Obama – as a mistake.
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