by The Israel Project
Turkish leaders have angrily denounced Israel and threatened to downgrade Turkish-Israeli ties in the aftermath of Israel’s campaign last week to prevent an illegal flotilla from reaching Gaza. Turkey’s actions came after nine activists – all Turks or of Turkish descent – were killed after self-described human rights activists aboard a Turkish ship in the convoy attacked Israeli military personnel.
Turkey unofficially sponsored the flotilla, which was organized and funded in part by the IHH, a hardcore Turkish Islamist group. Activists on the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel wielded metal bars, axes and knives against Israeli soldiers and reportedly dragged three of the soldiers who lost consciousness into the ship’s hold. A picture from the incident shows passengers – one of them holding a knife – standing over a captured soldier. Another version of the photo – edited by Reuters – was cropped to omit the knife.
Turkey’s latest animosity toward Israel is part of a years-long shift in Turkish foreign policy away from the West. A secular state with a Muslim majority, Turkey was once a major strategic ally of Israel but has turned against it in favor of closer relations with rogue states like Iran and Syria. Turkey supports a conciliatory approach to Iran and has obstructed U.S.-led efforts to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
Following is a brief timeline of events relating to Turkey’s changing posture towards Israel and the West.
June 1, 2010: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the international community should punish Israel for what he called a “bloody massacre” aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel in the six-ship flotilla. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu compares Israel’s raid on the ship to the 9/11 attacks.
May 16, 2010: Turkey and Brazil announce they have negotiated a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran in which the Islamic Republic would transfer some of its enriched uranium to Turkey. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later calls the deal a “transparent ploy” for Iran to avoid sanctions.
January 2010: Israel objects to “Valley of the Wolves,” a Turkish TV program depicting Israelis kidnapping and hiding Turkish babies and attacking old men, as well as a scene showing the assassination of the Israeli ambassador.
Oct. 11, 2009: Turkey excludes Israel from annual international air force exercises, leading the United States to pull out of the drill.
August 2009: Russia agrees to assist Turkey in developing a nuclear reactor.
Jan. 29, 2009: Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan walks out of a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland after a heated debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres. In the debate, Erdogan condemned Israel’s December 2008 – January 2009 defensive operation in Gaza, which Israel launched in an effort to stop Iran-backed Hamas from launching thousands of rockets, missiles and mortars into Israel from Gaza.
June 2008: Syria and Turkey sign a mutual nuclear cooperation understanding.
July 22, 2007: Turkey’s Islamist-oriented Justice and Development party (AKP), led by Prime Minister Erdogan, wins reelection.
December 2006: The European Union decides to delay negotiations over Turkey’s EU membership after Turkey fails to open its seaports and airports to Cyprus, a fellow EU member state.
Oct. 3, 2005: The European Union initiates talks with Turkey over its bid for full membership in the EU. However, countries such as Germany, France and Austria are reluctant to support Turkey’s EU membership due to concerns over Turkey’s human rights record and refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as well as concerns about Turkish immigration.
“Turkey will ‘never forgive’ Israel,” Al Jazeera English, June 4, 2010, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2010/06/20106312530449379.html
Black, Ian; MacAskill, Ewen; Booth, Robert, “Gaza flotilla attack: Turks killed by Israeli soldiers given heroes’ funeral,” The Guardian (UK), June 4, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/03/gaza-flotilla-attack-turkey-funeral
“Turkish Group Behind Flotilla Is Gaza’s New Hero,” AP via CBS News, June 3, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/06/03/ap/middleeast/main6545431.shtml
Harel, Amos, “Israel Navy: 3 commandos nearly taken hostage in Gaza flotilla raid,” Haaretz, June 4, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-navy-3-commandos-nearly-taken-hostage-in-gaza-flotilla-raid-1.294114
“Fauxtography: Reuters Deletes Peace Activists’ Weapon,” Little Green Footballs, June 6, 2010, http://littlegreenfootballs.com/page/215251_Fauxtography-_Reuters_Deletes_Peace_Activists_Weapon
Inbar, Efraim, “Turkey Says Good Bye to Israel and the West,” BESA Center for Strategic Studies, June 6, 2010, http://www.biu.ac.il/Besa/perspectives108.html
Sheridan, Mary Beth, “Turkish foreign minister opposes U.N. sanctions on Iran,” The Washington Post, April 14, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/14/AR2010041403818.html
Ravid, Barak, “Turkey PM Erdogan: World must punish Israel for its ‘massacre’ on Gaza aid flotilla,” Haaretz, June 1, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-pm-erdogan-world-must-punish-israel-for-its-massacre-on-gaza-aid-flotilla-1.293549
Kessler, Glenn, “Turkish foreign minister: Israeli raid on Gaza aid flotilla ‘like 9/11’ for his country,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/01/AR2010060101506.html
“Turkey, Brazil seal deal on Iran nuclear fuel swap,” Reuters, May 16, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64F29P20100516; “Clinton: Iran Nuclear Fuel Swap Offer Is ‘Ploy,’” CBS News, May 25, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/25/world/main6517434.shtml
Ravid, Barak, “Israel-Turkey relations deteriorate as FM seeks to recall envoy in Ankara,” Haaretz, Jan. 12, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142050.html; “Israel Angrily Rejects Turkish Leader’s Charges,” Associated Press via The Seattle Times, Jan. 12, 2010, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010769506_apmlisraelturkey.html?syndication=rss
Heller, Aron, “Turkey Bars Israel From Military Drill,” AP via ABC News, Oct. 11, 2009, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=8801368
“Russia signs deal to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant,” RIANovosti, Aug. 6, 2009, http://en.rian.ru/bU.S.iness/20090806/155747143.html
Bennhold, Katrin, “Leaders of Turkey and Israel Clash at Davos Panel,” The New York Times, Jan. 29, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/world/europe/30clash.html
“IDF Operation in Gaza: Cast Lead,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 21, 2009, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/
Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Aerial_strike_weapon_development_center+_Gaza_28-Dec-2008.htm, accessed Dec. 15, 2009
“Report: Turkey and Syria consider joint nuclear energy project,” Haaretz, June 13, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/992615.html
Abadula, Lensay, “Turkish Elections,” The Washington Post, July 17, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/17/AR2007071701295.html
Neuger, James G., “EU Welcomes Romania, Bulgaria, Slows Bid of Turkey,” Bloomberg, Dec. 15, 2006, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=awA7JRaod7js&refer=europe
“EU in last-ditch bid to break Turkey deadlock,” Forbes, Oct. 2, 2005, http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2005/10/02/afx2255116.html
Pan, Esther, “Turkey’s EU Bid,” Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 30, 2005, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8939/turkeys_eu_bid.html