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ANKARA: If Accelerated Diplomacy Derails...

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  • ANKARA: If Accelerated Diplomacy Derails...

    Zaman, Turkey
    July 30 2004

    If Accelerated Diplomacy Derails...


    What Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said in defense of the
    government after the train disaster was right in a way. A person who
    does nothing, makes no mistakes either. However, just as one who
    works has the right to make a mistake, it is also incumbent upon that
    person to realize the mistake and try not to do it again.

    When the issue is something that directly affects people's lives,
    like mass transportation, it is natural that expectations are high.
    In issues concerning a whole nation's destiny, like foreign policy,
    it is much more essential to realize the mistakes on time and make
    the necessary corrections.

    Erdogan government is generally doing a good job on foreign policy as
    well as in mass transportation. Our accelarated EU train is advancing
    toward the station where membership negotiations will start. It is
    doing so in great difficulty while struggling to repair the
    broken-down political and economic infrastructure of the country. The
    delay accumulated for so many years is being recovered. A dangerous
    referendum curve on another delayed issue like Cyprus, was passed
    without derailment. Turkey gradually has become a country that exerts
    more influence in the region and has enhanced its contribution to
    international peace. Relations between Turkey and the United States,
    which has changed course during the parliamentary motion crisis, at
    least seemingly working fine again. However, there is an issue that
    has the potential to ruin this good course. And that is
    Turkish-Israeli relations.

    Don't say, "Is it your job to write about Turkish-Israeli relations
    from Washington?" If Turkey and Israel sneeze, many in Washington
    catch cold. The virus spreads to the Turkish diplomatic mission,
    lobbyists as well as official/private Americans dealing with Turkey.

    As you know, the relation between

    U.S.-Israel is even something more than a "strategic partnership."
    Actually, it's a "strategic brotherhood." Even though they live far
    away from each other, they are like single-egg twins, who feel each
    other's pains. Almost everything that bothers the U.S. also bothers
    Israel. The United States feels the same for anything that perturbs

    It is certain that what has been bothering Israel of late are Prime
    Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh statements. Using the term
    'state terrorism,' to describe the things Israel does in Palestine,
    the prime minister could be appeasing most of the Turkish people as
    well as others in the region. However, this situation makes people,
    who favor the wellbeing of Turkish-American-Israeli ties, and want
    Turkey to reach to the EU station without any mishap, deeply

    When the prime minister made these remarks for the first time, early
    evaluations in Washington were that it could have been a political
    tactic in order to secure the Organization of the Islamic Conference
    (OIC) term presidency for Turkey. That is, people had good thoughts.
    This is because Erdogan is the one of the key AKP leaders, who has
    been able to convince Americans and Israelis the most, that he has
    changed although he comes from an anti-American and anti-Israeli
    background. The prime minister worked a lot before and after he came
    to power in order to eradicate any Jewish lobby doubts. This was the
    right thing to do. International politics has to be played by the
    rules. The U.S. influence on world policy and that of Israel and its
    friends on U.S policy cannot be denied.

    However, since Erdogan maintained this attitude against Israel after
    Turkey took over the OIC term presidency, old chapters that were
    about to be closed by Washington, are gradually being reopened.

    First of all, those elements who never closed in those chapters, got
    an upper hand in Washington. They had the opportunity to say to the
    majority, who consider the AK Party government 'workable with',
    "We've told you. They won't ever change. See how they manifested the
    anti-Semitism within themselves."

    Even though the prime minister says, "our criticisms are not directed
    at the state of Israel or the Jewish people but at the Sharon
    government", most counterparts do not perceive it that way. The
    expression used is "state terrorism," not the "Sharon government
    terrorism." Firstly, they find the remark "state terrorism" too heavy
    to bear. It even causes more trouble when a prime minister personally
    utters these words. One of the leading people in the Jewish lobby
    said to me, "The European Union also severely criticizes Israel but
    never has it used such a term. Besides, while many countries consider
    Turkey's fight against the PKK as state terrorism, didn't Israel
    support Turkey?"

    The Erdogan government's Middle East policy is gradually being viewed
    as pan-Islamist, especially by the Jewish lobby. Both the United
    States and Israel do not see pan-Islamism in the region to be in
    their interests. One should not expect the Judeo-Christian West
    warmly favor a renewed Ottoman spirit in Turkey. Hence, it is no
    surprise Turkey's proposal to be a mediator in the Middle East was
    not accepted by either Israel or the United States.

    Nobody is saying let's determine our Middle East policy solely in
    line with Israel and U.S. policies. However, we must not forget that
    we will still need to knock on the Jewish lobby's door in Washington
    for certain reasons, like the so-called Armenian genocide. Besides,
    while we are already struggling with difficulty riding through our
    broken-down state infrastructure with high-speed diplomacy, during
    this critical EU period, when Turkey needs stability internally and
    externally more than ever, shouldn't we refrain from attitudes that
    could give ammunition to internal and external elements who want to
    derail our train?