Yesterday I wrote that the US had allowed Turkey to veto Israeli participation in a counterterrorism forum. This isn’t the first time. Raphael Ahren writes,
Turkey has since [the Mavi Marmara affair] blocked Israeli participation in several international events. Last week, the World Economic Forum held a “special meeting” on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia in Istanbul. No Israeli officials were present, possibly because Erdoğan, who partially funded the conference, demanded that they not be invited. Last month, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vetoed Israel’s participation in a NATO summit of heads of state and government in Chicago. Then, too, an Israeli diplomatic official said: “We didn’t plan on attending the summit anyway.”
Considering that the Mavi Marmara affair was orchestrated by the Turkish regime, following other provocations — a visit by Hamas leader Haniyeh to Turkey in 2006 (and this year), and a theatrical display by Erdoğan in 2009 at the Davos economic forum, this behavior is not surprising. Turkey under Erdoğan’s AKP has made enmity with Israel a fundamental part of its program to become the major power in the Middle East, as US influence there fades.
What is particularly interesting is the way the US, under Obama, seems to be playing along.
After the Mavi Marmara affair, US pressure caused Israel to back off its economic warfare against Hamas, handing Erdoğan a victory (and Israel a defeat). And compared to his clearly expressed distaste for Israeli PM Netanyahu, Obama sees Erdoğan as a soulmate. Barry Rubin wrote (Mar 26),
President Barack Obama is continuing his love affair with Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdoğan. As Erdoğan continues to undermine Turkish democracy, throw hundreds of moderates into jail, destroy the nation’s institutions, help Iran, throw hysterical tantrums about how much he hates Israel, promote Islamism in the region, and is fresh from still another meeting with Hamas leaders, Obama continues to use Erdoğan as his guru.
When the two men met at the Seoul, South Korea, Nuclear Security Summit on March 25, Obama practically slobbered over the anti-American ruler, calling Erdoğan his “friend and colleague….We find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues.”
One could write a great deal about how Erdoğan is bad for Turkey, bad for the Middle East and bad for the US (Rubin does). But there is another aspect of this that particularly bothers me.
That is the question of how Obama relates to our traditional ally, Israel. By his unforced silence in the face of Erdoğan’s ostracism of Israel from the family of nations — in effect, the virtual erasure of the Jewish state — Obama is sending a message to both Israel’s friends and enemies that he has no problem with it.
Obama’s message is received loud and clear in the capitals of Israel’s enemies, who are emboldened to try to move from virtual erasure of a nation to its physical destruction. And to those who are not enemies, it is a prediction of how Obama will act (or not) when the chips are down.
May I hope that the message is also received by Israel’s friends among American voters?