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The collapse of the Turkish-Israeli alliance... Why?

January 28, 2014 at 2:22 am

By Ahmed Aomrabi

In a high-level international gathering, Turkish Prime Minister, Rajab Tayyip Erdogan, shouted in the face of Israeli President Shimon Peres saying: “You know how to kill people”.

Erdogan’s outburst was provoked by the brutal attack launched by Israel a year ago on the Gaza Strip.

One decade ago it was inconceivable that an Israeli official could be publically humiliated by a Turkish official in such a manner. Turkey was the most strategic ally of Israel among all the Islamic nations.

It seems that the strategic axis is rapidly deteriorating. The question is why is this happening? What has changed in Turkey and what kind of change is it? Is it a transient transformation engineered by Erdogan’s The Justice and Development Party (AKP); a transformation that could end if the party loses falls from power, or is this a decisive and radical transformation?

Over the last few years, Turkey started to turn its back to the West and take bold measures against Israel, notably, the recent cancellation of Israel’s participation in air training exercises conducted each year. Erdogan’s government went even further than that, it started to build a multi-faceted strategic relationship with Syria and Iran. All this leads to a subsequent question: Is the government ruling inspired by its own agenda, or is it in response to a sweeping popular movement?

Some Western observers attribute the strength of the Erdogan government to the weakness of the Turkish military establishment, which has imposed its influence and control over the ruling power on the pretext that it is the guardian of the Ataturk secular system.

This analytical trend is correct, but it is not enough because it does not answer the question fully, for that it leads to anther question, which is; why were the army generals afflicted with this apparent condition of weakness and vulnerability? Why is the surrendering to the “Justice and Development party”?

There are two reasons to answer this question. One is secondary, and the other is Primary.

The secondary reason is related to the request of Turkey for membership in the European Union. Although the EU is yet to approve Turkey’s application, it is not expected to do so in the foreseeable future. Notwithstanding, successive Turkish administrations have implemented the required conditions for membership. Foremost among these conditions has been the implementation of large-scale democratic reforms which effectively curtailed the dominance of the military on the political process. These reforms also reflected positively on public freedoms, the independence of the judiciary and the control of the security agencies.

As for the primary reason, it is represented in the emergence of an overwhelmingly popular movement led by the middle class demanding the restoration of the authentic Islamic identity of the Turkish people.

Naturally, the realization of such a major political shift could only come about at the expense of the pseudo secular identity, which was imposed on society generation after generation under the Ataturk legacy. This is explains why the Justice and Development Party won the general elections twice by overwhelming majorities.

Characteristically, Turkey is no longer Ataturk Turkey, and its belonging to Europe has gradually faded away for a new Islamic affiliation. Thus, the ruling Justice and Development Party, found itself in a good position to implement its agenda of independence, especially after the widespread belief that it is impossible for the EU to allow a major Islamic country, to become a member of a European Christian family.

This is the basis, in which Turkey’s radical transformation at the hands of Erdogan’s party should be read. It is a transformation that involves a set of policies and approaches toward the Middle East, leading directly or indirectly, to the dissolution of the strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel, and by implication a challenge to the United States. Consequently, this shift would have significant geo-political repercussions in the Middle East.

Therefore, it is natural, for Israel’s leaders to feel that this transformation poses a grave danger. In this context, British analyst Ed Blanche wrote in an article in The Middle East magazine that the demise of the Turkey-Israeli strategic alliance carries echoes of an earlier strategic alliance between Israel and the Shah’s Iran, which collapsed when the Islamic revolution in 1979, toppled Shah Mohammad Pahlavi.

Efraim Inbar, Director of Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies in Israel said that Israel’s intimate relationship with Turkey comes second after the Israeli relationship with the United States. Israeli air force commander general Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, descried the shift as “very serious development”.

It is not difficult to recognise why Israel fears the collapse of the strategic alliance with Turkey. The Israeli leadership are convnced that the key element of Erdogan Government agenda is to establish a strategic alliance that brings Turkey, Syria and Iran together.

Source: Al Bayan, UAE

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.