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Mordechai Kedar: What Drives Turkey?

Palestinian and Turkish flags

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Recently, two problems have arisen between Israel and Turkey: One is an aftermath of the Marmara affair, which observes its second anniversary this week, on the 31st of May. Turkey has prepared an indictment against four Israelis who served as senior officers in the IDF during the operation: Gabi Ashkenazi – the chief of staff, Amos Yadlin – the head of Military Intelligence, Eliezer Marom – commander of the Navy and Avishai Levi – head of the Air Force Intelligence Group. Even if these indictments are only served in the Turkish court for now, where the “accused” people will not bother to go, Turkey might eventually issue an international arrest order against them, so that officials of any country that they travel to might arrest them and transfer them to Turkey, to be brought to trial.

The second problem is the production of gas from gas fields that Israel discovered on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey has reservations about how the gas will be distributed between Israel and Cyprus, and it has already launched threats to all concerned that it will damage the drilling and production equipment if its interests are not satisfied.

These two problems might darken Israeli-Turkish relations for the next few years, so it is important for Israelis to understand the world view of the leaders of this state. Last week, on May 23, the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, published an article in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida, in which he publicly revealed how the elite of the Turkish regime sees the world that surrounds it. Below, is the entire article, originally published by “Makor Rishon”, with the comments of the translator, Mordechai Kedar, in parenthesis.

“Turkey’s New Path” by Abdullah Gul

Recently, Turkey has been in the forefront of international economic and political discussions. On one hand, despite the economic crisis that is washing over neighboring Europe, Turkey remains the state with the second fastest growing economy in the world, after China. On the other hand, there is almost no discussion of world problems, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia, Iran and the Arab Spring, and from the promotion of development to inter-cultural dialog, where Turkey does not fill a prominent role.

This is a new phenomenon to a certain extent, because as recently as ten years ago Turkey wasn’t thought of as more than a strong NATO ally. The situation began to change in 2002 [the year when Islam rose to power in Turkey] when a new morning of political stability dawned, which enabled the emergence of a more powerful Turkish image, along with the will and commitment to realize this image.

In order to implement this goal the [Islamist] governments of Turkey since 2002 began to carry out courageous economic reforms, which paved the way for continual growth and a protective shield against the economic crisis that broke out in 2008. As a result of this, the Turkish GNP has tripled, and Turkey has become the state with the 16th largest economy in the world. Likewise, Turkey has benefited from a strong public budget, because of an intelligent monetary policy, from fixed dynamics of debt, from an organized banking system and from smoothly operating credit markets.

At the same time we have acted to broaden the range of individual freedoms [what about the press that the regime silences because of official criticism?] which were subjugated for a long time [during the secular regime] because of security fears, as we acted to broaden the relations between the military and the citizenry [by subjugating the military to the Islamic regime] and the promise of social and cultural rights. We have devoted the greatest attention to the problems of ethnic minorities [for the Kurds too?] and religious minorities [for the Greek Orthodox too?]. These reforms have turned Turkey into an active and living democracy, a more stable society living in peace with itself, able to see the external environment [Europe, the Arab and Islamic world] in a different way [more so than in the past].

We have simply stopped thinking of our geography and our history [as the Ottoman Empire] as a curse or as something negative, and we’ve begun, on the contrary, to see our place in the junction between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as an opportunity for interaction with many players simultaneously [and to become a regional power]. As a result, we’ve begun to extend our hands to the neighboring states and to the states beyond them, in an effort to broaden the political dialog, to open shared economic connections and to strengthen mutual societal and cultural understanding [with a policy of zero conflicts that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has developed]. Despite the fact that ten years is too short a time to make an accurate evaluation of this ambitious policy, we have clearly succeeded to a great extent. For example, we’ve succeeded to quadruple our trade with our neighbors, and many times we have played an effective role in strengthening the efforts towards reconciliation and peace-making. However, the most important thing is that Turkey has become an example of success that many surrounding states aspire to emulate.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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