Israel’s relations with Turkey have been better. After a Turkish television series depicted Mossad agents as evil and murderous, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, on orders from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, summoned the Turkish ambassador to reprimand him in front of Israeli TV cameras. The deliberate humiliation has become a cause célèbre in the Arab media; Israel’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned by the government there; an Israeli cabinet minister criticized Ayalon’s treatment of Turkey’s envoy. This is the type of thing for which that odd word “brouhaha” may as well have been invented.
Just as importantly, the counter-attacks have begun. Turkey is cozying up to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned this. Lieberman is traveling to Cyprus today to sign a shipping agreement, which one imagines the Turks will be aware of and not pleased with. At least Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due in Ankara on Sunday, and hopefully he can clean matters up somewhat. And just this morning, Ayalon apologized.
Where does all this leave the United States? The country is an ally to both antagonists. Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn argues:
The previous Democratic administration, that of Bill Clinton, managed to link Turkey and Israel in a strategic alliance that served U.S. interests in the region. The downward spiral began under George W. Bush, but in the first year of the Obama administration everything fell apart. The Americans need to ask themselves how this happened and whether Turkey is lost.
Turkey is a regional military and cultural hegemon that borders Iraq and Syria (oh, yeah, and Iran), as well as Europe. It is also the world’s largest, if not only, secular Muslim democracy. Losing it would not be a favorable outcome for either America or Israel.