ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)—Turkey’s continued military ties with Israel have become the target of criticism by the country’s Islamists, who say the prime minister was not strong enough in his remarks condemning Israel’s attack on a Gaza aid flotilla.
“If the military relations between Turkey and Israel continue, the [ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)] will lose support by creating more disappointment among its base,” said Mehmet Sever, the head of the Istanbul International Brotherhood and Solidarity Association, or İBS, an Islamist Turkish charity.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech to his party’s group meeting Tuesday, in which he blamed Israel for the deadly assault, was seen as “not strong enough” by the AKP’s Islamist base, according to Sever. Party supporters expect more action, he added.
“There is disappointment among the AKP grassroots as they were expecting more from the government,” Sever said. “But this incident is very recent and we must see what the government does next.”
Diplomatically speaking, he added, Erdogan’s speech was severe and on mark and has already had the effect of making Israel start to release those in custody.
“We are expecting the government to take more deterrent actions,” Necdet Kutsal, the editor in chief of Milli Gazete, which has close ties to the Islamist Saadet Party, told the Daily News. “We have learned that three military exercises with Israel were canceled. This is a good development.”
Though Kutsal agreed that Erdogan’s speech was too soft, he said it is important that all political parties stand firm with the same position.
The government should cancel its military ties with Israel and deport the Israeli ambassador immediately, Numan Kurtulmuş, the head of Saadet Party, said at a press conference Wednesday.
Not all Islamist groups found Erdogan’s speech and the government’s reaction disappointing, however. “The AKP took the right steps in this period [after the attack]. The severest speech in United Nations history was made [and] Egypt opened the border gate,” Abdurrahman Dilipak, a columnist for the Islamist daily Vakit, told Hurriyet.
Saying that he believed the speeches by Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were both important, and that the prime minister has great support from society, Dilipak also warned about the need for follow up. “This support depends on the following developments and keeping the promises that have been made. The next steps that will be taken may increase that support,” he said.
Dilipak said Turkey should have sent war ships to escort the aid flotilla, calling the failure to do so a security weakness, a position also held by Ali Bulac, a columnist for conservative daily Zaman.
“If the government thought that Israel would not attack the aid ships, then it failed to evaluate the situation… If it expected that to happen and it did not take precautions, then it means hundreds of volunteers [on the aid ship] were put in a dangerous situation,” Bulac wrote in his column Wednesday.
The columnist said Turkey could have sent two war ships to secure the protection of the aid vessels. Sever, however, disagreed, saying the humanitarian shipments were a civilian initiative and it would not have been right to have them accompanied by military vessels.