I wrote earlier today about the human rights violations that have become routine under the regime of President Obama’s buddy Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In addition to making hypocrites out of his friends in Washington, this also raises important questions about Turkey’s standing to criticize Israel for measures intended to defend their citizens against terrorist attack. Under Erdoğan, Turkey hasn’t merely abandoned its longstanding strategic alliance with Israel; it has also become Hamas’s new chief sponsor.
The president may consider his friend’s embrace of an Islamist terror group to be of no importance, but Turkey’s rogue diplomacy is having a ripple effect on stability in the eastern Mediterranean. As historian Benny Morris points out in an article in The National Interest published last week, Israel isn’t taking Turkey’s betrayal sitting down.
In response to the Turkish embrace of Hamas, Israel has reached out to both Greece and Cyprus. Greece was among the most hostile countries in Europe to Israel but has now achieved a better understanding of the Jewish state since the Turks have become its foe. To seal this new understanding, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a visit to Cyprus next month.
Israel has long tried to establish alliances with states on the periphery of the region to balance the solid wall of hate from Arab and Muslim states. As Morris notes, that has led to good relations with newly independent Southern Sudan, a mostly Christian country.
Turkey is locked in a decades-long standoff with the Greeks in Cyprus. But now the Greek Cypriots in Nicosia are seriously considering an Israeli request to station military aircraft on their territory. As Morris writes, the Cypriots, who have faced intimidation from a superior Turkish military, are looking to Israel for help:
The Cypriots are apparently interested in Israeli assistance in monitoring the air space above the gas fields and drilling equipment and in augmenting their (small) navy’s patrols in their economic waters. [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak has asked the Cypriots to allow Israel to station aircraft in the Papandreu Air Base outside the town of Paphos in western Cyprus. And two months ago, the Israeli and Cypriot air forces held a joint exercise.
Turkey, which once prided itself on trying to be part of Europe, now aspires to a new caliphate. They may have thought its erstwhile ally had nowhere to turn once they were dumped. But by pushing Israel into the arms of Turkey’s Cypriot antagonists, they may have considerably worsened their own strategic situation.