“How is such a country [Israel], which totally ignores and does not implement resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the U.N.?", the person that uttered these words was not the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This was not the only arresting stance that Erdogan took. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 29, Turkish Prime Minister stalked off the stage after sparring with President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza. Responding to the Israeli president, Erdogan said, “When it comes to killing you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you hit and killed children on the beaches." Peres replied that Turkey would have reacted the same way if rockets had been falling on Istanbul.

In the last weeks, with the burst of the crisis in Gaza, the Turkish prime minister did not hide his alignment with Iran and Syria and his dreams to revive the Ottoman Empire. Turkish media reported that the first phone call Erdogan did to restore a “cease fire” in Gaza was to Ahmadinejad, who congratulated the prime minister for his continuous efforts.

Saudi media, which are waging a campaign against Iran, wrote about a new “Turkish-Iranian alliance”, and Ramadan Shallah, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, financed by Iran, stated that the Turkish prime minister's statements indicate a real awakening expressed by the Turkish street and by the government, adding that the Turkish and Iranian peoples are known today as part of the Islamic nation. Hamas itself said that it would agree to the deployment of international observers at the Rafah crossing provided that they include observers from Turkey and also the deployment of members of the Palestinian Authority National Guard, who are Gaza residents.

Erdogan’s remarks were followed by anti-Israel demonstrations throughout the country. Demonstrators were seen carrying as well anti-Semitic signs. At a demonstration in the industrial city of Eskisehir, for example, signs read, "Dogs allowed, but no Jews or Armenians."

Erdogan - who in the past wrote a play “Mascomia” against masons, communists and Jews - for his part, in a speech of January 13th to Turkey's parliament, accused Jews of controlling the media and of intentionally targeting civilians. "Media outlets supported by Jews are disseminating false reports on what happens in Gaza, finding unfounded excuses to justify targeting of schools, mosques and hospitals," Erdogan charged. Hence, concerns of the Jewish community in Turkey about a possible enmity toward them over the Israeli attacks in Gaza are once again on the agenda.

Turkish psychologist Leyla Navaro wrote an article in the local media, titled "Being a Jew in Turkey: Loneliness of 500 years," drawing reference to the statement by Erdogan that 500 years ago Ottomans opened their arms to embrace Jews who migrated from Spain. "Is it still a debt of mine that 500 years ago my ancestors were accepted by Ottoman Sultan? Am I still regarded as a guest in this land that I was born and grew up in, in which I fulfill my responsibilities as a citizen and have actually contributed to its development? Shall I walk with my head down? Am I a candidate for being threatened? And should I accept this situation?", wrote Navaro in her article.

Turkey’s President Gul and Turkish foreign minister Babacan tried to defuse the tensions by making public remarks aimed at reassuring Turkish Jews that they still enjoyed full protection of their civil rights. Speaking to Turkish television channel NTV, Babacan also said that both Israel and Turkey wished to maintain their strong strategic ties. But, despite these conciliatory tones, tensions remain.

Erdogan’s recent statements have actually worried President Gul, as many analysts believes that they have undermined the credibility of the country as a mediator in the Middle East vis à vis the new Obama administration. Hence, while Erdogan, in an interview with London-based Al-Hayat newspaper of few days ago, said that "Israel’s violation of the cease-fire played a role in the provocation of Hamas", Baban reassured the international community saying that “Our prime minister elucidated several times that anti-Semitism was in fact a crime against humanity”.

However, Erdogan’s pronouncement seems to be well timed to suit his political agenda. Growing Muslim solidarity in the region, massive demonstrations organized by Turks protesting the war in Gaza gave Erdogan an opportunity to criticize Israel and gain in popularity in Turkey and in the Middle East. In fact, Erdogan is trying to position itself as a go-between for the Arab/Muslim world and the West and to restore the dreams of a lost Ottoman empire — but to do that, it’s not enough to support Hamas. The hegemony in region still belongs to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and this explains Turkey’s willingness to align itself with Iran, the enemy of the two main Arab countries.

Turkish analysts thinks that Turkey's pursuit of leadership of the Middle East and the Muslim world does not automatically damage Ankara's relations with Israel and the West. However, the Turkish daily Vatan reported that during the summit in Cairo with EU eaders Israel has ignored Turkey. At the end of the meeting, Israeli President Ehud Olmert invited European leaders to a dinner in Israel. But, the name of the Turkish president Gul was not on the list of the guests.

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Related Topics:  Iran, Turkey
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