The most concerning development in the current crisis between Israel and Turkey is the joint statement condemning Israel from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Islamist party and the opposition Republican People’s Party. At the height of the presidential campaign for the early elections that Erdoğan forced on his country, it appears an anti-Israel political consensus has been reached that is completely unrelated to the violent events Hamas has been instigating along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
Through the joint statement, the secular opposition party sought to prevent Erdoğan from using anti-Semitic incitement against Israel as a campaign tool, as he has done in past Turkish elections. Thanks to Erdoğan’s efforts, a majority of Turks no longer see Israel as an ally, but as an arch-enemy.
Until now, Israel had for strategic purposes sought to maintain ties with Turkey in the hope that once Erdoğan was no longer in power, the old alliance could be rebuilt. But the systematic and consistent damage the Turkish president has caused during his many years as leader is absolute. His hatred of Israel goes beyond populist opportunism and deep-seated religious animosity. By exploiting the widespread popular belief throughout Turkey in conspiracy theories, according to which the descendants of the Sabbateans are secretly working to take over or destroy Turkey, Erdoğan has made anti-Semitism his country’s official policy.
If a political alternative ever comes to power, it will not be able to undo the damage he has caused. Moreover, it will in all likelihood preserve his hostile approach towards Israel and the Jews in order to establish legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
Israel needs to wake up: We have lost Turkey, and we must act accordingly. Israel must correct a terrible historical injustice and formally recognize the mass genocide of the Armenian people by the Turks in World War I. Israel must also do everything in its power to promote the idea of the establishment of an independent Kurdish state outside of northern Iraq, which has become something of an Iranian protectorate.
Finally, Israel must act in the international arena to isolate Turkey as long as it under the totalitarian-democratic rule of Erdoğan, and his Justice and Development Party.
If Ankara does see regime change, the new Turkish government will need to prove it is different from its predecessor. Israel has catered to Turkey’s whims for far too long. If the Turks are interested in bilateral ties, they can pursue us.
Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.