Thursday, February 15, 2007

Erdogan's Remarks Cast Cloud over Meeting with Olmert

An anti-Israel and anti-Olmert protest in Istanbul, yesterday (AP)

One might be forgiven for wondering what the much-vaunted Turkish-Israeli alliance is all about, especially in recent years. Whenever Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan opens his mouth about Israel, he invariably has negative things to say. It is hard to recall one favorable public utterance about Israeli policy by Turkish officials over the past 5 years.

In recent weeks, however, it looked as if there had been a rapprochement of sorts. This warming had been preceded by the announcement of a new pipeline project. The Turks have also reached out again to American Jewish groups, some of whom have developed close ties to officials in Turkey, which they see as a crucial strategic ally of both the United States and of Israel. Only last week, the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül held a meeting with leading American Jewish organizations to enlist them against a U.S. Congress resolution that would give official recognition to the Armenian Genocide (JTA; for more details on the resolution and meeting, see Genats-Lehayim).

It is hard to see what American Jewish organizations are getting in return for this strange pact, which essentially makes some of them complicit in the denial of one of the most horrendous crimes of the 20th century. It is nice to be able to boast of one's friendship with a majority Muslim but secularly-oriented country; a "moderate" state, in the fashionable vocabulary of today (this category includes countries such as Saudi Arabia). But the friendship sometimes appears rather one-sided. This became especially clear in the Lebanon war. Even before the summer of 2006, there were worrisome reports about public opinion in Turkey, which was very hostile to Israel and to Jews in general. Now, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert set to meet him, Erdogan has decided to weigh in on the al-Aqsa controversy and to pour a little more oil on the fire. (see our previous post on this incitement).

Olmert is in Turkey to enlist the country's support in efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and in mediation with Syria to recover the remains of the late Israeli spy, Eli Cohen z"l.

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