Row Between Israel and Turkey Threatens to Damage Historic Ties

The sharp exchange of words at the World Economic Forum between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep ErdoÄŸan over who started the Operation Cast Lead war in Gaza, is a sad and ominous message regarding the deterioration of relations between the two countries.

Prior to the recent 22 day war in Gaza, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed fairly decent relations with one another, despite the increase in terrorism against Jewish targets in Turkey and a rise in Islamic fundamentalism that begun to increase in this country despite efforts by Mr. ErdoÄŸan’s Justice and Development Party to create closer ties to the West, and his efforts to act as an intermediary in preliminary peace talks between Israel and Syria. All that has changed now, and relations between the two countries have sunk to such a low that many Israeli travel agents have cancelled tourism package bookings to Turkey and are considering canceling package tour trips to Anatoly and other Turkish resort locations popular with Israelis.

Turkish DelightPrior to the economic forum conference, held in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. ErdoÄŸan was quoted at a news conference that it appeared that it was Israel, and not the Hamas organization, that broke the 6 month cease fire agreement, while not mentioning the rocket that were being fired into Israel by Hamas and other militants, despite the cease fire.

It is a bit strange, as well as frustrating, that Turkey P.M. ErdoÄŸan could make a statement that Israel broke the truce with Hamas, despite the fact that around 300 mortar shells and rockets were fired by Hamas militants into Israel. This statement, by a Turkish head of government, only re-enforces the ongoing changes occurring in a country that appears to be drifting further into Islamization, and away from the secular ideals so adamantly espoused by Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

When Kurdish rebels make attacks against Turkish villages and towns bordering on Turkey’s borders with Iraq or Iran, Turkish air and ground forces retaliate – sometimes fiercely. Some of these retaliations have resulted in large scale intrusions into Kurkish areas, on scales not unlike the IDF’s entry into Gaza. Yet, the U.N. and other international forums have condemned the Turkish government on a much smaller scale than Israel has been condemned. This truth was mentioned by Mr. Peres when he asked Mr. ErdoÄŸan what his government would do if missiles were to rain down on Istanbul.

The right of self defense must be the same for both countries; and Mr. ErdoÄŸan and his government should be well aware of this fact. As Israel and Turkey enjoy a goodly amount of trade with each other, it would be a real pity if this were to end or be sharply reduced.