The following are translated excerpts from articles that appeared in the Turkish press.
ISRAEL READY TO HIT IRAN
According to interviews by Jeffery Goldberg of senior politicians in the Middle East region, in the monthly "Atlantic" magazine of September 2010: "Israel is ready to hit Iran." In his article, he says that the Israeli air forces will use Saudi Arabian airspace instead of Turkish airspace not to cause any more conflicts with Turkey
APPOINTMENTS OF JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS DELAYED OVER ERGENEKON CASE
Turkey's Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors [HSYK] has failed to agree on the appointments of hundreds of judges and prosecutors in a row over the Ergenekon case [in which the government is accusing members of the military of an arrmpted coup]. İlhan Cihaner, chief prosecutor for the eastern province of Erzincan, who was briefly held in custody as part of the Ergenekon case, has reportedly been appointed as chief prosecutor for the Black Sea province of Sinop.
"WE KILLED WHO HAD TO BE KILLED" SAYS ISRAELI MILITARY CHIEF
Israeli Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi joined the Israeli prime minister and defense minister in defense of his soldiers who had shed blood on board [the flotilla] ship, the Mavi Marmara.
Of the Israeli commandos who killed unarmed people, Ashkenazi said, "I am proud of them." He also said: "We acted boldly, cold-bloodedly and ethically. My soldiers opened fire on those they needed to. Those who had to die, died."
TURKEY SETS UP ITS OWN PANEL TO PROBE GAZA FLOTILLA RAID
Ankara has formed a national panel to investigate a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy while a United Nations panel continues its own probe. The Turkish panel will include many experts from different state bodies, and is expected to present a report by the end of the month. Ambassador Nihat Rende will chair the panel, formed under the Prime Ministry. It will include officials from the Prime Ministry Inspection Board, the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Transportation Ministry and the Maritime Undersecretariat.
TURKISH TERRORIST PANIC IN THE US
US Homeland Security Department sent a warning to the Washington D.C. Police Department about a possible suicide bomb attack on the D.C. metro system by a Turkish citizen. DC Police Department Spokesman Delinski said: "We can overcome such threats at this time. Our precautions are safe and strong enough to protect our citizens".
DIRECTORATE OF SECTS
Work on the status of cemevis [prayer places for minority Alevi people] has been completed. State Minister Faruk Çelik will raise the issue of forming a Directorate of Sects within the body of the Religious Affairs Directorate together with the report on cemevis. According to the plan, the directorate will have different departments to deal with different sects.
TURKISH PM TO STEP DOWN IF HE LOSES 2011 ELECTIONS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he will resign if his party fails to win general elections next year, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.
"If my party comes out as the second party in the 2011 elections — and I do not expect such a thing — I will step down from the party leadership," Anatolia quoted Erdoğan as saying in an interview late Wednesday with local television channels in the Black Sea town of Rize.
"I would hold myself responsible in the first degree for putting my party in that position," he added.
The 56-year-old leader commented that next year's elections would be the last time he would be standing, in line with a party decision limiting lawmakers' tenure in Parliament to three terms.
He did not specify whether he would also leave the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP], but said he could practice politics in civic bodies, think tanks or media organizations.
The AKP will be seeking a third term in the 2011 elections, having come to power in 2002 as an untested political force.
Recent opinion polls have suggested that the AKP is losing its popularity, with the main opposition party bridging the gap between them as it attempts to polish its image under a new leader.
The first test of strength for both parties will come in a Sept. 12 referendum on a set of constitutional amendments curbing the powers of the military and the judiciary.
The AKP, which drew up the changes, says the amendments will boost democracy. The opposition charges that the amendments are aimed at tightening the government's grip on power and eliminating the system of checks and balances.
ERGENEKON AND BALYOZ CASES 'APPLES AND ORANGES'?
A perceived double standard in two prominent coup-plot cases has some experts crying foul, while others say the investigations are like "apples and oranges" to each other and should be allowed to progress at their own pace.
Critics of the Ergenekon and "Sledgehammer" (Balyoz) cases have accused the judiciary of inconsistency by releasing military suspects in the "Sledgehammer"case Saturday after having warrants issued for their arrest ahead of a crucial army summit, while key figures in the Ergenkon trial, including journalists Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, remain detained.
Özkan's outburst in court Tuesday dominated the 71st hearing of the Ergenekon case, an investigation into an alleged gang accused of plotting to topple the Justice and Development Party, or AKP government. The journalist angrily claimed he is being held under arrest as "a sacrificial lamb" because he does not have an army to back him up, as the "Sledgehammer" suspects do. While shouting, Özkan was removed from the courtroom and banned from the next five hearings.
Though some media outlets have aligned themselves with Özkan's position –- the daily, Vatan, for example, published a story Tuesday titled, "The crime is the same, the organization is the same, why are they in prison?" –- lawyers who spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday said that although the Ergenekon arrests are problematic, the two case cannot be so easily compared.
"Each detainment and arrest should be evaluated in and of itself unless we are talking about the same incident and different suspects," said Professor Ersan Şen, who pointed out that the 10th Istanbul Court for Serious Crimes' arrest warrants were quickly overturned because the Court had erred in considering the "Sledgehammer" suspects as fugitives when they were not.
"Most of them have testified; a lot of them have been arrested and released more than once. They are people who are under judicial control and have been banned from foreign travel. Therefore, the court made a technical mistake," Şen said, adding that the 11th Court had simply corrected the error. According to Şen, if the 10th Court had been able to justify the arrests in light of new evidence under Article 94 of the Turkish Penal Code, things would have turned out differently.
Lawyer Mücteba Kılıç agreed that the situation of the "Sledgehammer" suspects is unrelated to that of the Ergenekon suspects. "The Ergenekon trial is almost coming to an end; the judges may have already made a decision about whether or not the charges are just," Kılıç said. He added that the court may have decided not to release those suspects because it believes they are guilty. In contrast, the "Sledgehammer" hearings have not even started yet. "However, on principle, I am against arrests," he said. "A person should not be [put on trial under] arrest if he is not continuing to commit crimes."
Journalist Ahmet Şık, co-author of the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Guide to Understanding Counter-Guerilla and Ergenekon," said the timing of the "Sledgehammer" arrests was definitely related to the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ.
"The judiciary has always taken political stands on the law, but today, I believe all judicial decisions are political," Şık said. "Some are anti-AKP, some are pro-AKP, but all are political. The judiciary has never been polarized like this."
Şık said coup plotters should definitely be tried, but if this is done solely within the scope of a political ideology, it cannot result in true justice.
Agreeing with the political nature of the Sledgehammer move, Şen pointed out that the arrest warrants were issued July 23, but that the suspects were not detained before the decision was revoked. "If it were you or me, we would have been caught on the second day, am I right?" he said. "This is hurting [the concept of] law and order."
Allegations that the judiciary is taking sides were amplified when former top military commanders such as İbrahim Fırtına and Özden Örnek were questioned and released within the scope of the Ergenekon investigation, while alleged conspirators such as Balbay and Özkan remained under arrest. Balbay brought this up in court, questioning the roles of Örnek and former Chief of General Staff Hilmi Özkök in the trial.
"Özden Örnek is not even one of the accused; neither is İbrahim Fırtına. Why is Hilmi Özkök not accused? He announced that he knew about the coup plans somehow," Şık said, expressing his agreement with the questions Balbay raised. "The arrested Ergenekon suspects are absolutely not the people I share an ideological camp with, but as I believe in justice, the continuation of their arrest is definitely unfair."
The Ergenekon case started in June 2007 with the discovery of 27 hand grenades in a shanty belonging to a retired noncommissioned officer. The finding has led to scores of arrests and has put nearly 200 journalists, writers, military personnel, gang leaders, scholars, businessmen and politicians in detention in what has become a terror investigation to stop the alleged ultranationalist group. In the later stages of the investigation, those in custody have been accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.
The "Sledgehammer" case, which created controversy over the promotion of military officials embroiled in the investigation, is an alleged military coup plot, purportedly drafted in 2003, against the ruling AKP.. According to the allegations, the military planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country to remove the ruling party from power.
TURKISH CURRENT ACCOUNT GAP WIDENS
Turkey's current account deficit increased 180 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2010 to reach $20.7 billion. The central bank said that the rise was caused mainly by a 49.2 percent surge in the foreign trade deficit in June, to $4.3 billion.
US APPEALS COURT REJECTS ARMENIAN GENOCIDE DENIAL CURRICULUM
A U.S. appeals court in Massachusetts on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that prevented the insertion of literature denying a genocide against Armenians into a state school curriculum.
The Armenian Assembly of America said the ruling "marks a major defeat" for a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, or ATAA.
A lower court in December 2009 dismissed the lawsuit brought by ATAA, which appealed the decision in June of the same year.
The appeals court said Wednesday that the Guide on Armenian Genocide instruction "fit into the curriculum classification ... [and] that law would not allow the genocide denial actions that the plaintiffs sought."
The ruling "sends a clear message to Turkey and its revisionist allies that history cannot be rewritten to further Ankara's state-sponsored denial campaign," said Armenian Assembly Board of Trustees Chairman Hirair Hovnanian.
"Given the overwhelming historical and legal evidence documenting the incontestable fact of the Armenian genocide, this ruling is a victory for all those concerned about genocide education and prevention," said Board President Carolyn Mugar.
Armenians maintain that at least 1.5 million of their people were systematically killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, was falling apart.
Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and says between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, perished in civil strife as the empire crumbled.
VOTES IN REFERENDUM DIVIDED ALMOST EQUALLY, SAYS SURVEY
As Turkey prepares to vote on the ruling Justice and Development Party [ AKP]'s constitutional amendments package in a referendum Sept. 12, a recent survey says that votes for and against the package are almost equal, with those who will vote "no" slightly ahead. The survey also suggests that a majority of women will vote "yes," whereas a majority of men will vote "no."
The Sonar research company's latest survey found that 50.8 percent of respondents said they would vote "no," whereas 49.2 percent said they would vote "yes" on the constitutional amendment package.
The survey was conducted with face-to-face interviews of 4,000 people in 25 provinces and 41 villages between Aug. 1 and 9. Around 20 percent of the interviews were held in rural areas.
Among the respondents, 1,077 men said they would vote "yes," and 974 said they would vote "no." Conversely, more women are not in favor of the constitutional amendments. A total of 960 female respondents said they will vote "no" while 791 said they would vote "yes."
Among respondents from Istanbul, 459 said they would vote "yes," but 432 said they would vote "no." In Ankara and İzmir, however, the number of respondents who would vote "no" was higher than those who said they would vote "yes."
Meanwhile, 37.2 percent of the respondents said they would be voting for the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP], in the upcoming general elections. This was followed by the main opposition Republican People's Party [CHP], which would receive 31.2 percent of votes, according to the survey. Just 13.5 percent of respondents said they would vote for the opposition Nationalist Movement Party [MHP].
Sonar has conducted monthly surveys on the election trends since February, and the vote share of the AKP reached its apex in the August survey. The CHP also increased its vote share, from 23 percent in February to 31 percent in August. The MHP's votes, however, decreased from 15.9 percent in February to 13.5 percent in August. In April's survey, the MHP received 21.1 percent of votes, its highest tally since February. Meanwhile, the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP], has lost some of its voters. The BDP received 5.7 percent of votes in the survey conducted in February, but this decreased to 4 percent in Sonar's survey in August.
The survey said around 16 percent of the AKP's votes in August's survey came from Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin.
A majority of respondents said unemployment was the most important problem in Turkey, at 73.7 percent. Economic problems and high prices were cited among the country's most important problems by 65.1 percent of respondents. Around 63 percent of respondents said terror attacks were one of Turkey's most important problems.
A majority of respondents were pessimistic about Turkey's economic future in the next six months. A total of 40.1 percent of respondents said the economy would be worse six months. Just 25.8 percent said the economy would be the same as today, while 24 percent said they believed Turkey's economy would be better six months from now.
TURKISH FM MEETS WITH LIKELY US AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Wednesday met former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Robert Wexler, who is widely rumored to soon be appointed as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The rationale behind the rumors is that Wexler, currently supervising a Middle East think tank in the U.S., was the first Jewish congressman to endorse Obama's candidacy; had advised Obama on Israeli/Jewish outreach during the election campaign, and is considered to be close to the president.
In a recent interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Wexler criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's stand on Israel, saying that his rhetoric, which he described as "bizarre," was receiving no support in the U.S. and was actually discrediting Turkey.
"There is no audience, I can assure you, for Prime Minister Erdoğan's comments regarding Israel – not in the Democratic Party, not in the Republican Party, not among more than maybe 2 percent of the population," he said.