Erdogan has intensified his critique of Israel in the aftermath of Biden’s failed visit to Israel, but, as in Washington, so far the reality falls far short of appearances.
Along with the rest of the world, Erdogan has intensified his own rhetoric against Israel since Biden’s failed visit to Israel, judging from Israel’s Ynet News on March 19, 2010. Erdogan’s critique scores on several fronts, leaving him still the rhetorical leader among moderates:
- Ties with Turkey will not return to normal until Israel ends the siege on Gaza;
- The approval of new homes in Ramat Shlomo is “unacceptable” and shows that Israel “wants to erase the Palestinians step by step”;
- Israel’s behavior “can harm regional stability.”
Ankara is still significantly ahead of Washington, having not only laid out demands at the highest level for changes in Israeli behavior in Jerusalem and Gaza but also underscoring the negative international impact of Israel’s conduct.
Going slightly beyond mere rhetoric, Erdogan thus made it clear that bilateral ties are being intentionally downgraded pending a change in Israel’s behavior. This was already clear, but his public affirmation at least makes it official that Turkey has crossed the line from words—so far Washington’s limit—to action. Now the question is whether Turkey or other states will move on to more substantive action than a vague negative tone in relations. More specifically, will Erdogan be able to entice Obama to follow his lead?
Erdogan is gently scouting out new diplomatic ground, laying a trail that seems designed to be as easy as possible for Washington to follow. For example, Erdogan’s reference to Israel harming regional stability follows closely from the recent comments of Petraeus.
The reality of Turkey’s ties to Israel (Israel National News, 3/16/10) are far warmer than Erdogan’s words might suggest, however. This week’s visit by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to Turkey for a NATO counterterrorism conference, despite the fact that Israel is not a NATO member and his meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul show clearly the strength of bilateral ties and the depth of the international isolation of the stateless and marginalized Palestinians.
Erdogan would undoubtedly be delighted to get some credit for helping resolve any of the various regional disputes, but he has yet to demonstrate that his anti-Israeli rhetoric is much more than a cover for the continuation of a profitable bilateral military relationship at the expense of both Palestinians and Turkey’s own Kurds.