It’s not surprising that Danny Ayalon was forced to apologize last week after dressing down Turkey’s ambassador to Israel for that country’s broadcast of programs depicting Israeli soldiers as brutal.
After all, Ayalon is just Israel’s deputy foreign minister, and officials that far down in the pecking order shouldn’t make gestures that can alter foreign relations. That’s reserved for the foreign minister or prime minister himself.
But we can relate to Ayalon’s anger. Despite Turkey’s long history of friendly relations with Israel, that country’s new Islamist government has spent the past year doing whatever it can to demonize the Jewish state.
• Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan censured Israel last year for what it said was the high Palestinian civilian death toll during its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
• Erdogan then publicly snubbed Israeli President Shimon Peres by walking off a stage he shared with the Jewish leader at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
• Turkey canceled a high-profile military exercise last fall because Israel was to have participated.
And the television program that Ayalon objected to, which depicted Israeli agents allegedly kidnapping children and shooting old men, is the second of its kind to air in Turkey in recent months.
One wonders why Turkey even bothers to keep an embassy in Israel these days.
If the new powers in Turkey prefer to chill their relations with Israel, they can do so. They are a sovereign state, after all.
What we find so comical about the whole affair is that while Turkey paints Israel as the devil of the Middle East, it has chosen to cozy up to two other states that are presumably more humane and peace loving: Iran and Sudan.
That’s right, Iran, a country which has sent out militias of thugs into the streets to threaten, beat and even murder its own people protesting what they see as a rigged national election in 2009; and Sudan, a country guilty of one of the most heinous acts of genocide in the last 30 years in Darfur, are enjoying a thaw in relations with Ankara.
Erdogan visited Iran in October, at which time he declared that Iran’s nuclear program to be entirely peaceful, according to the BBC.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported last August that Turkey is discussing the establishment of a joint industrial area with Iran on their shared border as a step in increasing economic activities between the two nations.
And last November, Turkey invited Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a man indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, to a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, though Turkish President Abdullah Gul stressed the visit was not for bilateral talks with Turkey.
Gul also told the media that al-Bashir is easier to talk with than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Perhaps he should try picking up the phone.
For better or worse, Turkey has decided its fortunes lay with the enemies of Israel, and subsequently most Western democracies. They may object to that characterization, given their desire to join the European Union, but then they must explain their choice of such strange bedfellows.