Israel lobby’s efforts on Turkey bear fruit

Since early 2009, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off a stage in Davos, Switzerland after castigating Israeli President Shimon Peres for Israel’s “barbaric” attack on the Gaza Strip, Israeli-Turkish relations, once very good, have gone downhill.

The deterioration accelerated after the Israeli Navy raid on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip ended in the deaths of 8 Turkish citizens and 1 Turkish-American.  In the immediate aftermath of the flotilla raid, Turkish protesters stormed the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, and Prime Minister Erdogan condemned the attack as a “bloody massacre.” Relations have not warmed since then, with Turkey banning Israeli military flight in Turkish airspace and demanding the Israeli government to issue an apology for the flotilla deaths, pay compensation to the victims’ families and accept an international inquiry into the raid.

The Israel lobby in the United States, buttressed by inaccurate corporate media reports, has followed suit in taking up the Israeli government’s mantle by pressuring the U.S. to “correct” Turkey’s move away from a robust alliance with Israel.  And that effort is now apparently bearing fruit, with Turkish news outlets reporting that the U.S. is snubbing participation in Turkish military drills because Israel was not invited, although both the U.S. and Turkish governments are denying that Israel has anything to do with the U.S.’s non-participation.

In an interview with journalist Jared Malsin, Ambassador Charles Freeman, who himself was forced to withdraw from consideration to become the chair of the National Intelligence Council because of efforts by the lobby, said that the hold-up in the confirmation of an ambassador to Turkey is also because of the lobby.

Malsin links to a piece from Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin, who has been reporting on the Republican Party’s efforts to block the nomination of Frank Ricciardone because his views don’t line up with a neo-conservative outlook. Senator Sam Brownback, an ardent Christian Zionist, has been the key player in the blocking of Ricciardone, and one reason is that Brownback is “concerned that we have not fully considered the ramifications of a Turkish tilt toward Iran and away from Israel.”

Also, in mid-August, Ha’aretz highlighted a Financial Times story that reported that “U.S. President Barack Obama has warned the Turkish prime minister that his country’s strained ties with Israel and increasing support of Iran could hinder an arms deal between Ankara and Washington.”

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