In 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asserted that “Those who support terror are collaborators of terrorists.” Just last week, Mr. Erdoğan designated Israel as a “terrorist state.” Does that not mean that in the prime minister’s thinking the United States and the EU are sponsors of terrorism, since they acknowledged Israel’s right to self defense and have designated, instead, Hamas as a terrorist entity?
But never mind. U.S. President Barack Obama has granted his annual pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey. One of these days he may perhaps pardon a turkey with a capital “t.” After the State Department refused to comment on Mr. Erdoğan’s statements that “Israel is a terrorist state,” or that “it is committing ethnic cleansing in Gaza,” or that “Israel will be held to account for Gaza,” Ben Cohen in Commentary magazine commented: “If we ignore what Erdoğan says about Israel” the (U.S.) logic here suggests that “perhaps we can persuade ourselves that he didn’t actually say anything at all.” But whether the turkey with a capital “t” will pardon the “terrorist state” remains a mystery.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has confirmed that Turkey resumed contacts with Israel during the process that eventually achieved the Gaza ceasefire, although he added that “this does not constitute a dialogue with Israel.” Earlier, the Israeli press had reported that the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s top diplomat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy had met in Geneva.
Interesting. Turkish and Israeli foreign ministries and intelligence services apparently had dialogue over the terms of ceasefire, but this dialogue was not dialogue. One wonders, really, how did Turkey hope to mediate between two sides when it does not speak to one of them? Again, never mind. That is not the only confusing engagement between Turkey and Israel.
Since the silly but tragic Mavi Marmara raid in 2010, Turkey’s leaders have reiterated countless times that diplomatic relations with Israel, now in a deep freeze, would only resume if Israel officially apologized for Mavi Marmara, paid compensation to the families of the victims, and removed the naval blockade on Gaza.
But the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s website puts it differently. According to the section under the title “Israel”: “Turkey has been demanding an official apology and compensation from Israel in order to normalize diplomatic relations. Israel has not yet met these demands.”
What happened to the third condition? Are the ministry’s conditions for normalization different to the minister’s (and the prime minister’s)? What makes the ministry think that an apology and compensation without removal of the Gaza blockade will normalize relations? Is Minister Davutoğlu aware that his ministry has quietly removed the third precondition for normalization? Does Prime Minister Erdoğan know? Or is the Turkish diplomat who is in charge of the page’s content hoping for a swift posting to a fancy mission in Somalia? Once again, never mind.
At the end of the day, Professor Davutoğlu’s miraculous foreign policy calculus has turned an unpredictable, volatile, mysterious and disquiet Middle East into a perfect enigma: Turkey and Israel have a common enemy, Syria; Turkey and its enemy Syria, too, have a common enemy, Israel; Turkey is at war with its own Kurds, but allies with Iraqi Kurds against Baghdad; Turkey and its enemy Israel have another common enemy, Iran, albeit in Turkey’s case the enmity is an open secret while in Israel’s case it is an existentialist war; Turkey is in an open enmity against Israel and an open-secret enmity with Israel’s neighboring enemy, Lebanon; Turkey, when necessary, speaks with its enemy Israel, but does not have a dialogue with the Jewish state; Turkey has three preconditions for normalization of ties with Israel, but its Foreign Ministry has two preconditions; Egypt’s ruling Islamists can speak with the Israelis and have normal diplomatic relations with Jerusalem, but “secular” Turkey cannot/does not; and Turkey allies with both the United States and Hamas, which its American allies view as a terrorist entity, while Turkey views its American allies’ Jewish ally as a terrorist state.
No wonder Turkish soap operas are such a regional hit. But, never mind…