JERUSALEM (Hurriyet)–The already tense ties between Turkey and Israel appear to have hit a new low as a new Israeli Foreign Ministry report accused Turkey’s prime minister of fueling anti-Semitism with his criticism of Israel.
A government official said Tuesday the seven-page report accuses Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of inflaming Turkish public opinion against Israel with his repeated allegations that Israel committed war crimes during its Gaza offensive last winter, reported the Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is confidential.
He said the report also acknowledged Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon seriously offended Turkey’s ambassador when he summoned the diplomat to protest a Turkish TV show that portrayed Israeli intelligence agents as cruel. Still, it said that the incident made clear that Turkey “reached the outer limits of the Israeli government’s patience.”
The report came as Turkey stated Tuesday that it would pursue its determination against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination with its belief in mutual understanding, tolerance, freedom, security and democracy.
On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp’s liberation, the Foreign Ministry noted that it was a duty of both humanity and every U.N.-member state to condemn the Holocaust and to encourage efforts to educate new generations. The ministry also commemorated Turkish diplomats who risked their lives to save people from the Holocaust in Europe during World War II.
In Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ayalon, both of Yisrael Beiteinu, are the leaders of the government’s aggressive anti-Turkey faction, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, both of Labor, head the conciliatory, pro-Turkey faction.
The report was written by the Center for Political Research, which performs the ministry’s in-house intelligence analysis, and has already been distributed to Israeli embassies and consulates abroad. It was submitted to the key seven cabinet ministers a few days ago, Israel’s Haaretz reported.
Regarding Ayalon’s humiliation of Ambassador Oguz Celikkol, the report said that while this seriously offended the Turks for many years to come, “at the same time, the manner in which senior Turkish officials, including Erdogan, ended the crisis may indicate that Turkey recognizes that it entered the red-line zone and [reached] the outer limits of the Israeli government’s patience, and that this was liable to lead to it losing Israel, which would damage Turkey’s international legitimacy.”
But most of the report focuses on the Turkish prime minister, who it considers the main source of the current friction. “In our estimate, ever since his party took power, Erdoğan has conducted an ongoing process of … fashioning a negative view of Israel in Turkish public opinion,” via endless talk of Palestinian suffering, repeatedly accusing Israel of war crimes and even “anti-Semitic expressions and incitement,” it said.
Though in international forums Erdogan always stresses that anti-Semitism is “a crime against humanity,” the report continued, in reality, he “indirectly incites and encourages” anti-Semitism in Turkey. “For Erdogan and some of those around him,” it explained, “there is no distinction between ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jewish,’ and therefore, [their] anti-Israel fervor and criticism became anti-Jewish.”
One result, according to the report, is articles in the Turkish press questioning whether Turkish Jews are loyal to their country – something that could endanger Turkey’s Jewish community.
In some cases, it added, Erdogan simply does not understand the anti-Semitic nature of his remarks – such as “Jews are good with money,” which “he sees as a compliment.”
Erdogan also “grants legitimacy” or “turns a blind eye” to anti-Israeli television programs “of an inflammatory, anti-Semitic nature,” such as “Valley of the Wolves” – the series that prompted Ayalon’s rebuke of the ambassador, according to report. The claim that this is just freedom of the press at work, the report said, is belied not only by the fact that such programs are approved by the Turkish censor, but by reports from Turkish journalists who say this freedom has been sharply curtailed in recent months: They say that “editorial policy is dictated by government bodies, journalists’ phones and offices that have been wiretapped, pressure has been applied to owners of mainstream media outlets, and there is tight supervision of Internet sites.”
“For Erdogan, Israel-bashing is a way of bolstering his status with Islamic and Middle Eastern states, which Turkey would like to lead, and against the Turkish opposition, as well as with his own party’s target audience and nationalist elements of the Turkish public,” the report read.
It also rejected the Turkish position that Erdogan is merely responding to Turkish public opinion, saying that in reality, Turkey’s government is leading public opinion, not following it. “Turkey today, under the leadership of the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party], is different from the Turkey with which Israel forged a strategic relationship in the early 1990s,” it concluded.