Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turkey and Israel - Again

PM Erdoğan of Turkey appears to be in a race with Foreign Minister Lieberman of Israel to see who can create the most poisonous between the two countries.

There is obviously nothing wrong with the Turkish PM expressing the opinions of the Turkish state regarding the actions of another country. However, there is a time and place and should not be the constant drumbeat it has become. He appears to be taking every opportunity to poke a stick into Israel which he knows, or should know, will elicit an immoderate response from Lieberman – a master at intemperate, childish remarks.

The purpose of Erdoğan’s not-quite-hyperbolic observations is quite clear – a major Moslem voice of a secular nation that is part of NATO which can, and does, throw its considerable weight around in the region will have its opinions seriously considered. If Iran, Syria or Libya voices those same opinions they are easily dismissed. When Turkey says it, people actually pay attention. Lieberman understands this, which might explain some his instantaneous tantrums and perpetual crabbiness. But, enough is enough.

Whether the substance of what Erdoğan says is true or not is irrelevant. Many already agree with his statements on Israeli policies regarding Palestinians, Gaza and illegal settlements – the latter endorsed, according to some, by God, the Old Testament or Better Homes and Gardens.

Many in the Middle East, Europe and the US already think the government headed by Netanyahu is dangerous to others and itself. Lieberman, however, is not. He is a loudmouth spokesman with the attitude of a hyper-sugared twelve year old. Although he has a voice in establishing Israel’s foreign policy, he does not form it. Netanyahu does and he needs to tell Lieberman to shut up and not respond to Erdoğan’s internally driven statements. And Erdoğan needs to dial it down a bit under the circumstances and stop switching into assault mode at every international convention. He has made his point for his domestic and regional audience, the United States and Europe. None of the vituperative jousting is helpful now and only increases the perception of the current Israeli government that it is under siege.

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