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Sen. Kerry Asserts 'Better Understanding' Would Heal Israel-Turkey Rift


DP Veteran
Oct 17, 2007
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New York
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Today, The Jerusalem Post reported:

Kerry said he understood Turkey's strong reaction to the incident, but said Israel "had acknowledged that some mistakes had been made."

He said he was confident tensions can be "put in a proper perspective" if the people of Israel and Turkey try and understand each other.

IMO, Senator Kerry could no be farther off the mark. The differences that have erupted between Turkey and Israel have little to do with misunderstandings or personalities. Rather, they represent the reality that Turkey is undergoing a strategic refocusing of its relationships based on how the present Turkish government conceives Turkey’s interests. Hence, if Turkey seeks to build ties with Iran, as it is doing, it can expedite that effort by demonstrating to Iran that it is weakening its ties to Israel. Given the evolving changes in the balance of power in the region, the present Turkish government’s policy is aimed at repositioning Turkey so as to safeguard its critical interests in a future where Iran is possibly the region’s strongest power.

Such flawed assumptions are not rare. In fact, during the Cold War, some policy makers persistently argued that the Cold War was largely the result of misunderstandings. It wasn’t. It resulted from a fundamental clash of interests. Turkey’s strategic repositioning is also the result of how Turkey conceives its interests. It is not the result of Israel’s policies (even as the pretext is used) nor Turkey’s not having attained full EU membership. Nation’s don’t base their policies upon petty feelings. Otherwise, the world would be far more unstable than it is today, alliances would be practically non-existent due to continually shifting ties, and diplomacy would be rendered largely impotent.
I think some people are too obsessed with the fact the AKP is Islamist in character. This shift going on is about a combination of things and would continue even if the CHP were in power. With the EU it is not simply about being rejected, but that the European nations are actively moving to keep Turkey out. Countries can only take a beating from their supposed allies for so long before giving up on them.

Iraq is another area that has become a sore spot with Turkey. The U.S. and Israel have been very cozy with the Kurds in Iraq and there is evidence of both countries aiding PJAK and indirectly aiding the PKK, possibly through elements of the KRG, maybe even directly aiding them.

The Kurds are major allies for Israel and the U.S. and major enemies of Turkey, Iran, and Syria. While Israel and the U.S. have interests diverging from Turkey's interests Turkey has its interests converging with those of Syria and Iran.

Also, Turkey's interests in the Caucasus may begin lining up with those of Russia. Several friendly moves toward the Abkhaz government have been made since its recognition by Russia in 2008 and efforts at repairing relations with Armenia have made some progress recently as well. When you get right down to it Turkey is aligning itself more closely with America's enemies than it has before and there are indications this is supported by most of the major members of the Turkish establishment.
I think some people are too obsessed with the fact the AKP is Islamist in character. This shift going on is about a combination of things and would continue even if the CHP were in power.

I generally agree. I believe the AKP's ideology makes only a modest contribution to Turkey's foreign policy evolution. I believe the shift in the region's balance of power and how that relates to Turkey's interests is the driver of Turkey's strategic refocusing. The EU issue, Israel's actions, and misunderstanding have little or no bearing on that refocusing, even if they are cited as pretexts or factors by others.
What we do know is that prior to the coming to power of AKP party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002, Turkish foreign policy clearly manifested a desire to be considered “ Western ” and pursue “ Western values ”, i.e., a democratic state where religion was separated, and membership in NATO and a pursuit of membership in the Economic Union.

I would argue that yes indeed the Islamic religious views of the AKP seek to bring back a connection between Islam and the state and therefore reject the Western concept of separating religion from state.

It would be my contention the shift in Turksih foreign policy since 2002 has risen because of a fusing of Islamic religious beliefs with foreign policy and this is an expression of the religious views of the Islamic AKP as it also reflects the Islamic religious views of both Erdogan and Foreign Policy Minister Agmet Davutoglu.

I would argue that the current shift in focus in Turkish foreign policy promotes what many now refer to as a “ neo-Ottomanism” and that it Erdogan seeks to revive Turkey's ambitions in the Middle East to become the leader of the Islamic world again as opposed to remaining dettached from it, precisely because of the religious concept of "ummah", (the Arab collective) Erdogan and Davutoglu share.

I believe there is a distinct conservative religious Islamic fundamentalist underlying the ideological precepts of Ardogan and Davutoglu and helps explains the embracing of Shiite fundamentalism Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

I would argue to pretend the Islamic religious views of these two leaders did not fuel their decision to align Turkey with radical Islamic regimes and terrorist organizations denies the obvious.

One could argue Turkey sees Iran as an ally in its fight against Kurds and has turned on Israel because of its belief Israel supports the Kurds, but such a theory is limited and does not explain its move with Brazil to bring low enriched uranium stock to Iran. Turkey does NOT need Iran to be a nuclear power to serve as its ally against the Kurds. It was already exchanging intelligence and working in joint efforts with Iran.

On the other hand I would argue the Islamic religious views underlying Ardogan and Davutoglu and in particular their concept of the Umma could be clearly seen when they Embraced Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and welcomed him to Ankara as a hero or when they welcomed the Iranian President as a hero. The displays when both these leaders visited made numerous references to Islam and conservative religious Islamic views.

One could speculate part of Turkey’s turn to the East and desire to be a major player in the Islamic world comes from its feeling it will never be accepted as a member of the Economic Union and a grass roots rejection of Turkish guest workers across Europe who return to Turkey with tales of discrimination against them for being Muslim in a Christian world, but even if that is the case it also helps explain would why the pro Islamic religious ideology of Ardogan and Davitoglu has become popular and now openly rejects the traditional non religious role of the Turkish state that pre-existed until 2002 and seeks to introduce Islamic conservatism into every day Islamic life including a return to more traditional clothing.

I would argue the pardoning from prison of Islamic fundamentalists deemed as terrorists by the pre-2002regime and clearly aligned with Al Quaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah as well as its open support of Hezbollah and Hamas and sponsoring a ship they new contained Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to deliberately provoke an armed confrontation with Israel illustrates a clear ideological shift based on shared extremist Islamic beliefs.

I am not one of those who seeks to make rationalizations other than religious ones for the dymanic shift in Turkish foreign policy. I believe the speeches of Edrogan and Davitoglu full of Islamic religious references speaks for itself.
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