ANKARA: The Hair of Caliph Muavviye: Turkish-Israeli Ties

The New Anatolian, Turkey
April 27 2005

The Hair of Caliph Muavviye: Turkish-Israeli Ties

Ayse Karabat

There is a very old Arab story: Once Caliph Muavviye said that there
is a line like a hair between his people and himself. If the people
pull on this hair, the caliph gives some slack, and vice versa. So
this hair never breaks. In the Middle East, the expression of “the
hair of Muavviye” since then has been used to describe relations
which never come to point of breaking despite the occasional
tensions, like Turkish-Israeli ties.

For Turkey, from the very beginning the difference between the public
opinion and the “high interests” of the state plus the economic bonds
never weighed that much on Ankara-Tel Aviv relations.

Turkish-Israeli relations have always had ups and downs. But after
the Oslo agreements, bilateral relations came to the point of “the
sky is the limit,” as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said once. Up to now, the two countries have signed 66
agreements, and another one, foreseeing cooperation in the field of
research and development, is set to be signed.

But then again, during the former coalition government of Turkey,
when Israel started the “defensive shield” operation and reoccupied
the West Bank, the coldness started, especially when Bulent Ecevit,
then prime minister of Turkey, characterized what was going on as
“genocide”

Shortly afterwards, the war on Iraq started. Some Turks, including
some state officials, got suspicious about the designs of Israel for
the future of Iraq. The seeds of suspicions were there:
Maybe Israel wants an independent Kurdish state, maybe Israel would
like to have an alternative pipeline to Kirkuk-Yumurtalik namely,
Kirkuk-Haifa, although these suspicions were never voiced out loud.
It was also vice versa, it was never said out loud at the other side
of the Mediterranean, but a government with an Islamic drive in
Turkey might be a problem for Tel Aviv. And then the prime minister
of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when commenting on the assassination
of the religious leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, used the words
“state terror.”

This was the beginning of a new “cold cycle” of relations. But
Erdogan, who is a pragmatist, sent his four advisers to Tel Aviv and
then Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. The death of Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat served the interest of Ankara-Tel Aviv relations, too.
Plus, the disengagement plan of Israel and relatively smooth sailing
between Israel and Palestine laid the groundwork for the Erdogan
visit to Israel which will start next week. Israeli sources say that
Israel is ready to open a new page once more. Because Israel,
whatever the situation, needs Turkey. It needs friendly countries on
its periphery as indicated by David Ben-Gurion, the founder of
Israel.

Of course, the visit of Erdogan will be criticized among some circles
in Turkey. If it is not anti-Semitism but anti-Sharon feelings which
are really high in Turkey, especially among the supporters of the
ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party. The government will say,
“But we have very good relations with Arab countries too. Just look
what we did with Syria.” The government will also says that “our good
relations with Israel will serve the cause of peace,” which is one
hundred percent true. Erdogan will say also, “We’re friends with
Israel. Friends are obliged to tell the truth, so we criticized
Israel out of friendship.”

The difference of this visit from previous ones paid by Turkish
officials will have to do with regional issues. For example, one of
the commitments Israel might look for, regarding Iranian nuclear
power, will not be there. Instead, for the good of bilateral
relations there will be commitments, and this will be shown, as the
ministers of agriculture, defense, and energy with their wives will
accompany Mr. and Mrs. Erdogan.

Before visiting Washington, it’s always useful to get wind on your
back coming from Tel Aviv. Plus, it’s time to pay back for the help
of the Jewish lobby for their support against the Armenian “genocide”
claims.

Regardless of the political situation there are almost 2,500 Israeli
companies working in Turkey or doing business with Turkey. Not to
mention the almost 300,000 Israeli tourists coming to Turkey every
year. The trade volume, excluding military deals, reaches some $2
billion. Israel sells $700 million,and buys $1.3 billion from Turkey.
This trade volume is even bigger than the Israeli-Russian one,
despite the almost 1 million Israeli citizens of Russian origins.
This means, whatever the words, that deeds are at the core of
Turkish-Israeli relations, and yes, in the economic field the sky is
the limit and yes, the hair of Muavviye is stronger then ever,
because despite some suspicions and problems and Turkish public
opinion, it is in the form of dollars and reciprocal strategic
interests, and one cannot change this.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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