Turkey’s abrupt about-face
Israel is the canary in the coal mine, the first to breathe the toxic fumes of political change as the Turks seek to win Islamist friends. The government expelled the Israeli ambassador and cut military ties with Israel after the Israelis refused to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish ‘activists’ on a ship in a Turkish-based flotilla attempting to break the Israeli embargo to Gaza. Israel has expressed ‘regret for the loss of life,’ and a United Nations investigation concluded that the Israeli blockade was legal and the Israeli commandos acted only in the face of ‘organized and violent resistance.’
The Turkish reaction sounds like a ploy to signal Islamists that Turkey is on their side. ‘While diplomats and generals too often ascribe tensions between Turkey and the West to a reaction to the Iraq War,’ says Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, ‘or disappointment with the slow pace of the European Union-accession process, or anger at the death of nine Turks killed in a clash with Israeli forces aboard the blockade-challenging Mavi Marmara, in reality Turkey’s break from the West was the result of a deliberate and steady strategy initiated by Mr. Erdogan upon assuming the reins of government.’ Mr. Erdogan emphasized his secularism initially and Western officials, eager to believe him, ignored his record and his party’s ties to Islamist ideology.