The Obama administration thinks Israel and Turkey can make friends again. Earlier this month, at the administration’s urging, Israel agreed to participate, with Turkey, in a United Nations Review Panel on the flotilla incident that occurred last May. In that incident, nine Turkish members of an Islamist mob were killed when the group attacked Israeli soldiers aboard a Turkish ship. The ship itself was trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Since then, Turkish officials, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan setting the tone, have consistently referred to the incident as Israel “killing innocent civilians,” “state terrorism,” and the like. U.S. envoy to the UN Susan Rice, however, expressed hope that the panel “can serve as a vehicle to enable Israel and Turkey to move beyond the recent strains in their relationship and repair their strong historic ties.”
The news so far is not encouraging, with Turkey having excluded Israel’s ambassador to Turkey from attending the annual Eid al-Fitr dinner (marking the end of Ramadan) last week. An official of Erdogan’s AK Party explained that “anyone who is unjust or inequitable cannot pass the threshold of the Justice and Development party’s headquarters.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded that “once again it appears that Erdogan is initiating an escalation…we will behave responsibly and not be pulled into the Turkish sword dance.”
The United States, however, is also having trouble getting along with Turkey these days. Ynet reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has “convened a special meeting of State Department and National Security Council officials to discuss the United States’ relations with Turkey.” Senior U.S. officials are described as “infuriated with Turkey over its [support for] Iran…, a sentiment demonstrated by Republican senators’ refusal to approve the appointment of designated U.S. ambassador to Ankara, Frank Ricciardone.” The Financial Times also claims President Obama has “personally warned” Erdogan to take a more constructive line on both Israel and Iran.
Turkey not only voted against the UN Security Council’s imposition of tougher sanctions on Iran last month. The Los Angeles Times also described Turkey as one of the four countries—the others are Russia, China, and India—that are doing the most to prevent them from working by “rushing to boost their economies by seizing investment opportunities” that the sanctions leave open.