Er­do­gan, a wannabe sul­tan

ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

TURK­ISH AIR­LINES an­nounced last week that it was can­celling two of its seven daily flights to Ben Gu­rion Air­port.

De­spite the fact that com­mer­cial ties be­tween the two coun­tries re­main strong and Is­tan­bul is an at­trac­tive and com­pet­i­tive hub for Is­raelis, Pres­i­dent-elect Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s re­lent­less anti-Is­rael and an­tisemitic rhetoric has taken its toll.

Mr Er­do­gan’s first-round vic­tory in Turkey’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Sun­day seems to guar­an­tee that there will be no im­prove­ment in po­lit­i­cal or diplomatic ties in the near fu­ture — and this has had an im­pact even on Is­raelis seek­ing cheaper air­fares.

In 11 years as prime min­is­ter, Mr Er­do­gan has trans­formed Turkey into a re­gional pow­er­house, rais­ing liv­ing stan­dards, end­ing the sec­u­lar tra­di­tions of govern­ment and the mil­i­tary’s cen­tral role in pol­i­tics. He hopes now to push through sweep­ing con­sti­tu­tional changes which will give the pres­i­dency un­prece­dented pow­ers and al­low him to launch the next stage of his grand de­sign, one in which “a strong Turkey will rise once again from the ashes”, as he said in his last elec­tion speech.

The ob­sta­cles fac­ing him, how­ever, are sig­nif­i­cant. He lacks a nec­es­sary two-thirds ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment; the na­tion­al­ists and the lib­er­als in the west, and the Kurds in the East, op­pose him; and, in the last cou­ple of years, his am­bi­tions to boost Turkey’s in­flu­ence abroad have been stymied by de­vel­op­ments across the Mid­dle East. His eco­nomic suc­cesses are threat­ened by a debt cri­sis and real-es­tate bub­ble. In­stead of be­ing at the cen­tre of a wide Mus­lim al­liance, Ankara’s ties with Egypt have de­te­ri­o­rated fol­low­ing last year’s mil­i­tary coup and Turkey now finds it­self with only Qatar and Iran as po­ten­tial al­lies.

His once close re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has also evap­o­rated as a re­sult of his anti-demo­cratic stance.

Mr Er­do­gan sees Is­rael and, by ex­ten­sion, the Jews, as a main link in the forces ar­rayed against him. Officials in Jerusalem who have worked for years to try to re­build the strate­gic ties with Ankara to­day con­cede that noth­ing will change while the wannabe Ot­toman Sul­tan re­mains in charge.

Is­rael’s of­fer to apol­o­gise and pay com­pen­sa­tion for the deaths of nine Turk­ish cit­i­zens in the 2010 Mavi Mar­mara in­ci­dent and the phone call be­tween the two coun­try’s prime min­is­ters bro­kered by Mr Obama last year have failed to yield an agree­ment. Last month, Is­rael ve­toed any Turk­ish in­volve­ment in the ef­forts to reach a cease­fire in Gaza.

In­flam­ma­tory com­par­isons be­tween Is­raelis and Hitler and barely veiled threats to­wards the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity may have helped Mr Er­do­gan se­cure his firstround ma­jor­ity but they also serve to un­der­line his frus­tra­tion at Turkey’s grow­ing iso­la­tion in the diplomatic sphere.

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