Commentary Magazine


Cold Turkey

Funny country, Turkey. The more it democratizes, the more it Islamicizes. Founded as an anti-clerical state, this secular bastion has long been preserved by the army, which sees itself as the ultimate authority, and every once in a while stages a coup to prove it. This is the part that is pro-Israel, that has turned Turkey into one of Israel’s most important military allies.

Then there is the other Turkey, the one that holds democratic elections, the one that picked the pro-Islam, openly anti-Israel Recep Erdogan as its premier.

Suddenly we have a major hiccup in Israel-Turk relations, after a decade of deepening cooperation in military, economic, and tourism spheres. Israel fought Hamas, and Erdogan launched into the crimes-against-humanity canard. In the span of a week, we hear that Israelis have basically stopped vacationing there (this, after an Israeli basketball team was run off the court by violent, anti-semitic fans). Some American Jews are more willing to discuss the Armenian genocide, which they’ve tended not to mention for fear of harming Israel-Turkey relations. Israel’s president Shimon Peres has a public spat with Erdogan at Davos, resulting in the latter’s walking off the stage. And Israel, which is not very choosy in selling arms to other countries, is considering downgrading its arms sales to Turkey, for fear of the weapons getting into the wrong hands.

Where is this going? Unclear. Fixing things with Turkey will be a crucial burden for Israel’s next government. But for now, it’s nice to see Israel standing up for itself, not just against its enemies, but especially with its allies.