As we reported yesterday, the Turkish-Israeli relationship is deep and has withstood many a disagreement. It is a relationship informed by many elements.
These include the storied Ottoman welcome of European Jewry during the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century and later acts of Turkish heroism in the face of the 20th century rise of European fascism. Since the 1948 establishment of Israel, commercial, military and cultural ties between Turkey and the Jewish state have flourished. Israel is home to a community of more than 100,000 immigrants from Turkey who are quick to point out to a visitor that, “We are not Turkish Jews, we are Jewish Turks.” That sensitivity to the placing of noun and adjective declares something very powerful about the relationship.
It was against this backdrop that, until last week, the 550-seat Turkish Grand National Assembly included 300 parliamentarians as members of the Turkish-Israeli Interparliamentary Friendship Group, or “Turkish-Israeli Caucus” for short. That a predominantly Muslim country, with historic ties and growing strategic and commercial links to the Arab world, would have such a parliamentary organization is in and of itself noteworthy. Last week, 136 members of this caucus resigned — prematurely.
We are no admirers of the group Hamas. We have frequently condemned terror in the name of Islam and we believe Hamas is an organization with blood on its hands. But it is also our position that Israel’s raid into Gaza is disproportional to the threat and results from circumstances in Gaza that have been exacerbated by Israel’s economic blockade. While rejecting the argument that Hamas is legitimate because it is “democratically elected,” we also believe that it is Israeli policy itself that has made Hamas “legitimate” in the eyes of so many Palestinians. We also believe Israel’s action is all the more cynical in that it is transparently a play for position in upcoming elections and comes days before the advent of a new administration in Washington that has promised a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the concept of “proportionality” is also coming into play in the rhetoric of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His calls for peace and demand for a ceasefire we endorse; but we don't think that the rhetoric that elevates Hamas to the status of responsible actor is right. It is rhetoric that squanders Turkey’s hard-earned political capital and ability to serve as a broker of regional peace.
Similarly, the caucus resignations may be well-intentioned but are only symbolic. The members of that caucus, past and present, should all be on a plane to Tel Aviv. This caucus enjoys rare and unique moral authority. It is time for the deployment of this authority in the Gaza war.
"This is published as the Editorial article of Hurriyet Daily News on Jan. 7, 2009."