Ethnic Identity Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Thomas Ambrosio | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Entangling Alliances: The Turkish-Israeli Lobbying Partnership and Its Unintended Consequences

Thomas Ambrosio1

The Israeli lobby in the U.S. is far superior to all other ethnic lobbies put together. Whenever this lobby has worked for us, Turkey's interests have been perfectly protected against the fools in the U.S. The development of relations between Turkey and Israel and the formalization of their de facto alliance will place this lobby permanently on our side.

—Sükrü Elekdag, former Turkish ambassador to the United States 2

In the mid-1990s, Israel and Turkey entered into a de facto alliance in order to further their security goals. Turkey gained access to Israeli technology, and its newfound relationship with the Jewish state helped to reinforce its own relationship with Israel's principal ally, the United States. Israel, too, hoped to benefit from closer ties with Ankara: Turkey's secular orientation and geographic contiguity to three enemies of Israel (Syria, Iraq, and Iran) made it a welcome ally in an often dangerous region. Although this relationship was important for geopolitics in the Middle East, it also had significant implications for interest group politics in the United States: pro-Israeli and pro-Turkish lobbies formed their own alliance on Capitol Hill, largely in support of the Turkish policy agenda and its close ally, Azerbaijan. This led to a number of uncomfortable situations that strained the Israeli lobby's relations with other ethnic groups, particularly the Armenians. 3

This case is particularly interesting for a number of reasons. First, the Middle East's geopolitical significance is undeniable. The policies of Israel and Turkey and their respective relationships with the United States have important implications for the balance of power within the Middle East. Second, the Jewish-American lobby is the most powerful ethnic lobby in the United States and among the most powerful of all American interest groups. The policies it chooses

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