- - Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The ability to respond smartly to controversy is a measure of responsible leadership. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan just flunked a test. The Turkish president-cum-caliph with a tart tongue has flown off the handle over the U.S. foreign policy turn toward Israel, demonstrating why he is an unreliable ally. Eliminating common ground undermines the basis for friendship.

President Trump’s announcement that the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem, endorsed by a succession of presidents of both parties and long delayed, was treated like poison in the Islamic capitals, where poison abounds. Better than that would have once been expected from Istanbul.

No one should have been surprised that Mr. Trump delivered on the promise made by several presidents. The decision was classic Trump, somewhere between fearless and oblivious. And it is classic retribution that an ally of the Turkish strongman has placed a reward of $800,000 on the heads of two U.S. diplomats who dared condemn the Erdogan retaliation against supposed organizers of a 2016 coup attempt.

Mr. Erdogan reacted with venom in keeping with his full salute to the forces that have conducted the siege of Israel in their long war to establish an adjacent Palestinian state from which to dislodge the Jewish nation. “Palestine is an innocent victim,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech the other day to his masses. “As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist. We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.” If diplomacy is war by other means, such harsh language is close to the real thing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned a volley: “I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s rhetoric is fact-based. Mr. Erdogan’s is not. The difference is between defending one’s homeland and invading another’s. Turkey lowers itself by joining in the Muslim me-too campaign that blames Israel’s mere existence for disturbing the peace that never was.

Mr. Erdogan might at one time have felt emboldened by the winds of change sweeping the Middle East. Then, a tack toward Islamism could have looked promising on the strength of fellow Sunnis and their ascendant Islamic State. But times have changed. Visions of a new caliphate shattered with the destruction of the ISIS army. Mr. Erdogan’s ambition to reverse the secularization of Turkey is hardly a worthy one.

Turkey has been a sometime partner of the Jewish state in moderating the excesses of other Muslim regimes, but Mr. Erdogan’s failure to make even a whisper of reason about Jerusalem as the Israeli capital betrays a full about-face. For a nation that once proudly proclaimed its NATO membership as proof of an irreversible commitment to Western values, Turkey is moving the wrong way.

Turks deserve better. A new Pew Research Center survey reveals that 63 percent of respondents in Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia believe Turkey is playing a greater role in Middle East affairs than it did 10 years ago. With elevated influence comes greater responsibility. The nation that was a bridge between East and West should think twice about blowing up that bridge.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide