Contextualized dictionary of Turkish politics,
The prime minister’s Arab Spring tour and his speech at the UN, along with increasing tensions between Ankara and Tel Aviv, dominated Turkey’s political landscape at the start of the fall. However, the focus eventually shifted as attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) escalated, and the government’s military and police response, along with increasing casualties on both sides, stalled informal talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, lowering the likelihood of a rapprochement in the near future.
Turkey’s anti-Israel sentiments
The term “anti-Israel” has different meanings globally based on local politics. In Turkey it originates in current events and issues, conflicts and incidents. In the West, and in particular the US, criticism of Israel is often a zero-sum game, with critics branded as being opposed to Israel’s very existence. Anti-Israel sentiment spiked in Turkey with the release of the Palmer Report on the Mavi Marmara incident. Much media coverage and public support were given to Turkey’s demands that Israel apologize for the attack and pay compensation to the families of the nine people killed, and that the blockade of Gaza be lifted on humanitarian grounds. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated these demands in his speech to the UN and in meetings with US President Barack Obama. The Turkish press also reported the belligerent comments by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who advocated, among other sanctions, Israel’s support of the PKK, defined as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Turkey. Lieberman compounded the conflict by stating, “Our problem is first and foremost with the current Turkish leadership -- the radical and extremist Islamist leadership that supports and nurtures terror.” This level of polemic was frequently quoted, adding fuel to the fire. Thus much of the anti-Israel sentiment in Turkey reflects the current state of Turkey-Israeli affairs, driven by Turkey’s empathy for the people in Gaza (particularly in the wake of Operation Cast Lead), Israel’s position regarding the Palestinians, and continuing discontent over the Mavi Marmara incident.
However, Turkey’s stance has found few sympathetic ears the West, least of all in the US, where criticism of Israel is frowned upon as being “anti-Israel,” particularly during the run-up to the US presidential elections. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before a joint session of the US Congress this year, “Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel.” Turkey’s label as “anti-Israel” is exemplified by media coverage of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s speech to the UN in September -- covered in the same article in The New York Times as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, which