Reporting from Ankara
I’m currently in
. I’ve been travelling here regularly for business for around a decade. Ankara, Turkey
Ten years ago, I was warmly treated in
Turkey, both by clients and by Joe-in-the-street – who were enthusiastic about showing their respect and affection for anyone from . Israel
With the series of hostile acts over the past years by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against Israel, culminating in this week’s expulsion of Israel’s ambassador and many diplomatic staff, and today’s news report that Israeli travelers were systematically harassed at Istanbul airport, a once fine relationship, has been irreparably shredded.
Although it feels a bit nutty to be still coming here, with the relations between the two countries at rock bottom, I’m actually a (very small) part of a four billion dollar Israel/Turkey commerce. Interestingly enough, and counter intuitional, this binational business is stronger than ever – according to Yediot Achronot, up a dramatic 26% up on last year.
The one customer here with whom I dared to discuss the latest anti-Israeli diatribe from Erdogan (which was airing on the news while we chatted), said that he is wholly embarrassed by Erdogan, who he described as a “dangerous hot-head”.
Not solely regarding
Israel, but apparently on other issues also, my customer said Erdogan is reckless, illogical and disastrous for . The educated classes, he told me, are strongly against Erdogan. He said that he doesn’t even have a single friend who voted for Erdogan in the recent elections. Turkey
Under the slogan “no problems with neighbors”, Erdogan’s government set out to fix the many historical disputes with most of its immediate neighbors. Indeed, there was a sudden and dramatic warming of Turkey's previously-frosty relations with
Syria, Iran, Armenia and . Greece
However, this was countered with Erdogan's constant flow of bully-boy antics against Turkey's erstwhile strategic ally,
My customer pointed out that the "no problems with neighbors" policy has proven a total failure –
has more problems than ever. Turkey
By murdering thousands of citizens in its streets,
Syria is embarrassing new-buddy , and threatening disruption and refugees to their common border. Turkey
Erdogan’s support of nuclear Iran, backfired, and seriously damaged Turkey’s relations with the USA and other Western allies – including the EU, which Turkey has long craved membership. Such membership prospects now disappeared over the horizon.
And recent fracas with Greek Cyrpus over Gas Field exploration in the Mediterranean (which Erdogan claims is not in Greek waters – because Greek Cyprus itself does not exist), is now threatening to lead to warfare on the high seas (Erdogan today: “securing the Eastern Mediterranean” seems to be turk-speak for enforcing Turkish sovereignty over Cypriot gas fields).
And Erdogan was wrong footed (along with the rest of the world) by the Arab Spring, leaving him bereft of strongmen Arab allies.
If, by slamming
, he was playing to the Arab gallery – there’s no one left watching. Israel
Turkey has apparently even managed to fall out with , an erstwhile strong ally. Azerbaijan
However, there is no denying Erdogan’s success at the polls.
Three successive General Election victories is an awesome accomplishment for any democracy. This June’s election was Erdogan's largest majority – almost achieving his goal of a 60% landslide.
So, the educated classes aside, there is no end in sight for Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions.
And so anyone who shares Ehud Barak’s optimism for re-building
’s strategic relations with this Turkish buffoon, regretfully is hallucinating... Israel
But, given the counter-intuitional nature of Israeli-Turkish commerce, maybe the four billion dollar trade will continue to flow?