Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel Must Get Used to the New Turkey

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel Must Get Used to the New Turkey

Article excerpt

Unless Israel improves the humanitarian situation in Gaza, tension between Turkey and Israel will remain.

Turkey and Israel are at loggerheads again, and this should come as no surprise.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon recently staged a rebuke of the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv over the contents of a Turkish television show. Israel subsequently apologized, but this will go down as yet another milestone in the ongoing tension between Turkey and Israel.

Despite some Israeli and American efforts to paint Turkey's objections to Israeli policies as "anti-Semitic," people in the business of statecraft understand very well where Turkey is coming from.

They recognize that disagreements between Turkey and Israel are likely to continue provided there is no recognizable change in issues such as improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza. They also recognize the complete and immediate freezing of settlements and the overall posture of Israel toward the peace process - if one can still talk about such a process.

I remember vividly the days when the United States criticized Turkey for engaging with Syria at a time when Washington and the Europeans were trying to isolate Syria. Today we see a full reversal of US and European policies; both the US and Europe now recognize that engaging with Syria is the right course of action.

Then, Turkey's views on the Middle East were shunned and disregarded - in my view, primarily due to the inability to make the mental shift about Turkey and its new posture.

The Americans began to revise their position in 2007 and recognized that Turkey is a regional power and no longer the satellite state of the cold-war years. They understood that Turkey needed to be treated accordingly. It took quite a bit of time and effort to facilitate that mental shift, but President Obama's early visit to Turkey was a confirmation of that perception vis-a-vis Turkey.

The Europeans still have a hard time making the mental shift concerning Turkey, which is why our relations remain fragile. Israel appears to be in the same position. They also do not seem to have fully accepted that Turkey has changed and that Turkey's reentry into the Middle East is permanent. …

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