A truth the crisis reveals

The result of the “low seat” crisis between Turkey and Israel is important in terms of revealing the new power balances in the region. Turkey showed that it was behind its claim of being “a supra-regional power” by not taking a step back from the crisis and even intensifying it in a controlled manner. 
                                 
 
The way the crisis was resolved is proof of Turkey’s new status. Israel backing down and apologizing shows that Israeli leaders are also aware of the new geopolitical facts of the region. The Tel Aviv administration couldn’t risk the chance of Ankara recalling its ambassador, which Turkey threatened to do. They couldn’t oppose Turkey’s demand for an apology. It is no simple matter for a state to be forced to apologize to another state. There is no other country in the Middle East that can make Israel take a step back like that. The confrontation between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli President Shimon Peres last year in Davos ended in a similar way. It was the Israeli side that had started the debate. But after the Turkish prime minister castigated Peres in front of the world, the Israeli president called Erdoğan following the meeting and apologized.
Why don’t problems we have with Israel at least once every year erupt into full-scale crises?

The Islamic roots of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) prompt many local and foreign observers to analyze Ankara-Tel Aviv relations incorrectly because these people attempt to link Turkey’s current attitude to being “pro-Islamic” and “pro-Arab.” But they are seriously mistaken. The Turkish state has a tradition of developing a foreign policy based on principles and the facts in the field, not on emotions and convictions. In this regard, the new period of Turkish foreign policy is not a deviation. Those who manage Turkish foreign policy know very well that good relations with Israel are beneficial for both Turkey and the region. It is for this reason that the “zero problems with neighbors” policy that Turkey has been observing for seven years is not an approach that excludes Israel. Turkey’s successful endeavor of starting indirect talks between Israel and Syria is evidence of this. It should not be forgotten that Turkey-Israel ties did not deteriorate because of the “one minute” protest in Davos but because of Israel’s sudden bombardment on Gaza. A day before the attack, Turkey was as close to Tel Aviv as it was to Damascus.

If that had not been the case, Turkey would not have been able to mediate indirect talks between Israel and Syria. Turkey was not the side that ruined Turkey-Israel relations and neither is it the one that can repair it. Turkey is a country that is gaining more influence in the region, entering economic and social integration processes with neighboring countries and saying, “It is our mission to establish order” in the region.

Peace and stability in the Balkan-Caucasus-Middle East triangle is in the interest of Turkey. That is why Turkish diplomats are vigorously working to ensure an atmosphere of stability and security in the region. With a mission to create positive peace in the region, it’s impossible for Turkey to be unresponsive to actors that escalate tension and deepen conflict. If Israel ignores peace efforts and sustains its “controlled tension” policy in the region then improving relations with Turkey will become nothing but a dream. Turkey does not need the special friendship of Israel or any other country in the region. But Israel particularly needs to become friends with Turkey and stay that way in the new period.

The principle that applies for Syria and Iran also applies for Israel. The only way to become friends and stay friends with Turkey is by sincerely wanting peace. 
 
16 January 2010, Saturday 
GÜRKAN ZENGİN

OPINION