Israel, US agree: Turkish gov't 'hates' Israel
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/29/2010 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY
Former US Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey believes Turkish foreign policy has 'Rolls Royce ambitions, but Rover resources' and that Ankara cannot compete with global or regional powers. US documents released by WikiLeaks also show Jeffrey did not see a viable alternative on the horizon to the current Turkish government
Deteriorating ties between Tel Aviv and Ankara are “attributable exclusively” to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hatred of Israel, U.S. and Israeli diplomats agreed, according to a confidential cable by the U.S. embassy.
The cable sent last year was one of the U.S. State Department documents released late Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. In it, Israel’s ambassador to Ankara Gabby Levy blames Erdoğan for the hostilities, an assessment with which the United States expresses agreement.
“Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdoğan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel,” former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey said in the cable dated Oct. 27, 2009, about his talks with the Israeli ambassador. “Instead, Levy attributed Erdoğan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion.”
The U.S. diplomat quoted Levy as saying of the Turkish prime minister: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously.”
In his own comments, Jeffrey, who left Ankara in July to become ambassador to Baghdad, then said in the cable: “Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdoğan simply hates Israel.”
According to the U.S. ambassador, “Levy cited a perceived anti-Israeli shift in Turkish foreign policy, including the Turkish government’s recent elevation of its relations with Syria and its quest for observer status in the Arab League.”
In another confidential cable dated Jan. 20, 2010, and titled “What lies beneath Turkey’s new foreign policy,” Jeffrey said Ankara’s foreign policy had “Rolls Royce ambitions, but Rover resources.”
“Despite their success and relative power, the Turks really can’t compete on equal terms with either the United States or regional leaders – the European Union in the Balkans, Russia in the Caucasus/Black Sea, [and] Saudis, Egyptians and even Iranians in the Middle East,” he said.
Though he said Turkish foreign policy was becoming more Islamic, Jeffrey added that this would not mean the NATO ally would abandon the West. “Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely,” Jeffrey wrote. “Does it mean that it is abandoning or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not.”
The ambassador said the situation “called for a more issue-by-issue approach, and recognition that Turkey will often go its own way.”
[HH] ‘No better government on horizon’
Though Jeffrey voiced discontent with the Turkish government and said its leaders would go sooner or later, he also lamented that there was no viable better alternative to the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government at the current point or in the foreseeable future.
“In any case, sooner or later we will no longer have to deal with the current cast of political leaders, with their special yen for destructive drama and – rhetoric,” Jeffrey wrote. “But we see no one better on the horizon, and Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world-class Western institutions, competencies and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion.”
In another cable dated Jan. 26, 2010, and labeled “secret,” written as a scene-setter for U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ upcoming Turkey visit, Jeffrey predicted the Turkish-Israeli relationship would continue to suffer.
“While the Foreign Ministry and the Turkish General Staff agree with us that a strong Turkey-Israel relationship is essential for regional stability, Prime Minister Erdoğan has sought to shore up his domestic right flank through continued populist rhetoric against Israel and its December 2008 Gaza operation,” he said. “Erdoğan is likely to continue anti-Israel remarks and the issues will continue to cast a shadow on the Turkish-Israeli bilateral relationship.”
In the “secret” minutes of Gates’ talks with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and then-Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, Jeffrey said in a Feb. 16, 2010, cable that one key subject of the discussions was the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. In the meeting, he said, the U.S. side explained that the sale of U.S.-made and armed MQ-9 Reaper drones, which Turkey had been seeking to buy, would not be possible in the near term, primarily due to congressional hurdles.
“The SecDef [defense secretary] reaffirmed to Başbuğ that the U.S. is committed to the sale of Reapers to Turkey, but offered the caveat that the sale would first have to be approved by Congress,” Jeffrey said.
[HH] Missile defense system
On missile defense, Gates insisted on a plan to deploy a special X-band radar in Turkish territory. Gates “emphasized that without a radar based in Turkey, significant areas in the eastern part of the country would not be covered by the system,” Jeffrey wrote, adding that the U.S. secretary of defense “reiterated that Turkey was the optimal site” for the radar.
At the meeting, Gates also strongly lobbied for two U.S. defense companies, Sikorsky Aircraft and Raytheon-Lockheed Martin, that are seeking multibillion-dollar Turkish contracts on utility helicopters and air-defense systems.
The Turkish tender for utility helicopters has been open for two years and the short list includes Sikorsky and Italy’s AgustaWestland.
“Gönül believes Sikorsky has a good chance to win,” Jeffrey wrote in the cable.
On the air-defense issue, Gates said, “nothing can compete with the [Raytheon-Lockheed Martin] PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities.”