Unlikely bond with Turkey at breaking point
Published 01/06/2010 | 05:00
TURKEY traditionally has been Israel's best friend in the Muslim world, a vital ally that has often played an important bridging role between the Jewish state and its more hostile neighbours.
As a result of its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla, one of Israel's most carefully nurtured strategic relationships is now at breaking point. Many of the victims were Turks and the reaction in Ankara, both among politicians and ordinary people, has been one of apoplexy.
Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, called for -- and got -- an emergency session of the UN Security Council, and pulled out of joint military exercises with Israel, a step swiftly followed by its historic enemy Greece. In Istanbul, 10,000 people marched on the Israeli consulate.
Yet the truth is that Turkey's relationship with Israel has been fraught for some time. Repeatedly rebuffed by the European Union, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has instead tried to shore up his credentials in the Arab world, a step also designed to woo Turkey's more devout Muslims, who form the traditional base of his Justice and Development Party.
As a result, Mr Erdogan took a leading international role in denouncing Israel's invasion of Gaza in December 2008. Even more frustratingly for Israel, he has sought to improve relations with Iran. In an initiative co-sponsored by Brazil, Turkey last month offered to take possession of some of Iran's stockpile of new-enriched uranium in an attempt to ward off international sanctions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)