Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gaza War Created Rift Between Israel and Turkey

A Palestinian raised a Turkish flag at Friday Prayer in Gaza last week. Many Gazans praised Turkey’s leader after he clashed publicly with Israel’s president.

Israel’s Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage during a debate in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29.

It seemed more a temper tantrum to me, but I wasn't there. As I remember reading about it, Shimon Peres was given the bulk of the time slot, and Erdogan wanted to rebut something Peres said; the time was up, and it was time for dinner, and the moderator would not give Erdogan more time. It was then that Erdogan stormed out, threatening to never return.

In the week since, both sides have taken pains to mend fences, with officials in Israel and Turkey making conciliatory statements.

While Israel said it went to war to end rocket fire by Hamas, Mr. Erdogan said he saw the war through the prism of democracy.

Depends how one looks at it. How would the PM respond if, say, Artvin was being hit by rockets fired from over the border?

Mr. Erdogan’s stance has won him praise in Arab societies, which opposed Israel’s military campaign and chafe at their leaders’ support of it.

“In one stroke, he became the moral patron saint of the Arab world,” said Mr. Candar, the columnist. But some Turkish columnists criticized Mr. Erdogan for what they said was an implicit hypocrisy — raising the issue of the Israeli killings of Palestinians while failing to mention his own country’s abuses in the mostly Kurdish southeast during years of war there.


“One would naturally ask Erdogan, who stands up against violence imposed on people in Gaza, what he thinks about Kurds being killed in his own country,” wrote Ahmet Altan in the liberal Turkish daily Taraf.


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