Monday, February 4, 2013

Who is driving force behind anti-Israelism in Turkey?

As many believe, it is not Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who is a driving force behind anti-Israelism in Turkey. He is too much intellectual for that.

His recent remarks on Israel where he openly urged Syria to retaliate has been considered as “irresponsible” by some, including Steven A. Cook. Cook said in his latest blog post that Turkish foreign minister’s recent statements regarding Israeli air raid in Syria “are nothing short of irresponsible.” He added that his remarks only increase tension between Ankara and Jerusalem, further removes Turkey from regional diplomacy, and contributes to an unstable environment in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cook could have saved his valuable time by considering Davutoğlu’s remarks as made by someone who will not miss any opportunity to bash Syria’s brutal regime by pointing out the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army is only powerful enough to kill defenseless civilians and not confronting Israel.

Cook’s anxiety is needless at best. Today, Davutoğlu is the last person Assad would listen to. Putting this aside, however, there is one thing true in the region today: Most of Turkish leaders’ speeches on Syria and Israel is to give a wake-up call to the world to act against the recklessness of these governments. While speaking, Turkish leaders sound like fundraisers or activists rather than statesmen.

Turkish leaders have already passed that point of being “responsible” in their remarks because they failed to walk their talk for a long time now and whatever they say are not regarded as a policy item. They could not match their rhetoric not because they were ignorant of their country’s clout but for the reason that they had faith in the strength of their soft power. They sincerely believed that they could nudge region’s authoritarian figures into a right direction by talking. They failed. And they got emotional as they had nothing to offer as an alternative.  

In his remarks, Davutoğlu didn’t openly prod Syria to attack Israel (although he would welcome it); he was just trying to emphasize the fact that the army, which is supposed to defend the country, was doing exactly the opposite and committing crimes inside the country.

Davutoğlu is no enemy of Israel. He hosted an Israeli minister in Ankara early in 2010 and had a very close cooperation with Israelis up until the Mavi Marmara incident. He had seven years to lobby Erdoğan to sever ties with Israel but he didn’t. In Turkey, anti-Israel sentiments run high in almost every segment of the society but particularly in the Milli Görüş camp, where Erdoğan is coming from. Although he repeatedly denounced former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s Milli Görüş mentality, there are some traces left and being distasteful of Israel is one of them.

What is good about Erdoğan and Davutoğlu is that they are always open for talks and reconciliation. It just takes some time and of course, some courage. 

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