ANKARA — Turkey’s Prime Minister “simply hates Israel” on religious grounds, US cables released by WikiLeaks say, reflecting growing US misgivings over Ankara’s foreign policy.
The scathing assessment comes in a memo on a conversation with Israeli ambassador to Turkey, Gabby Levy, about Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s frequent outbursts against Israel following the Jewish state’s devastating war on the Gaza Strip last year.
“Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government…tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel,” the cable said.
Levy reportedly dismissed domestic political calculations as the motive behind Erdogan’s hostility, and instead attributed it to the prime minister’s Islamist background.
“He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading,” Levy was quoted as saying.
The cable concluded that Erdogan’s “antipathy towards Israel is a factor” in his policy on Iran’s nuclear program and other Middle East issues.
It was dated October 2009, before Turkish-Israeli ties plunged into a full-blown crisis on May 31 when Israeli forces killed nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship.
Shortly after, NATO’s sole Muslim-majority member voted “no” to fresh sanctions against Iran, adopted at the UN Security Council, insisting that a nuclear fuel swap deal it hammered out with Tehran, together with Brazil, should be given a chance.
Another cable, dated November 2009, said Washington was “wondering if it could any longer count on Turkey to help contain Iran’s profound challenge to regional peace.”
According to other papers, Erdogan lacks “vision” and “analytic depth”, reads “minimally”, ignores foreign ministry expertise and is guided by an “iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors… which partially explains… his susceptibility to Islamist theories.”
He is said to rely on “his charisma, instincts, and the filterings of advisers who pull conspiracy theories off the Web or are lost in neo-Ottoman Islamist fantasies, e.g., Islamist foreign policy adviser… Ahmet Davutoglu.”
Davutoglu, foreign minister since May 2009, met Monday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of a previously scheduled visit to Washington.
The cables portray Erdogan’s advisers and Davutoglu as having little understanding of politics beyond Turkey.
Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul, quoted by US diplomats, describes Davutoglu as “exceptionally dangerous.”
Despite his bragging, Erdogan is afraid of losing power, according to the dispatches, and one source is quoted as saying that, “Tayyip believes in God but doesn’t trust Him.”
A cable signed by the US ambassador in January 2010 says Davutoglu wants to reassert on the Balkans the influence the Ottoman empire used to exert on the region.
But the foreign minister overestimates himself and Turkey, wrote the US diplomats, saying the country was “with Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources.”
Another memo reported Israeli claims that Ankara allowed supplies for Iran’s nuclear program to be shipped across its territory.
Speaking in October 2009 after a meeting with Israeli counterparts, a French diplomat tells the Americans of “profound disquiet among the Israelis about Turkey.”
“He reported that the Israelis claimed the Turks have allowed weapons-related material for Iran’s nuclear program to transit Turkey, with Prime Minister Erdogan’s full knowledge,” the memo said.
“The French replied that Israel would need to have clear and concrete proof of such activity before leveling accusations. The Israelis replied that they are collecting evidence which they will eventually publicize.