It’s a clever maneuver and it’s used again and again.
They are attacking me not because of what I did. They are attacking me because of who I am.
Not only does this put the self-declared victim in an invulnerable position — no one can change or should need defend their simple identity — but this also deflects criticism by insinuating that it springs from bigotry or blind hatred.
A few months after the Israeli Defense Forces had slaughtered hundreds of Palestinian civilians — men, women and children — in Gaza in 2009, Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, spoke to the US ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, and expressed his concern about deteriorating Israeli-Turkish relations.
Levy’s explanation, with which Jeffrey concurred, was that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hates Israel. “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously,” Levy claimed.
Jeffrey commented: “Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel.”
In other words, Erdoğan’s attitude towards Israel had nothing to do with his reaction to Israel’s barbaric treatment of Palestinians. It was the product of simple hatred — the implication thus being that there would be nothing that poor little Israel could do in order to make amends.
Erdoğan has been in office since 2003. In early 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described relations with Turkey as “perfect.” In 2007, Israel’s President Shimon Peres was honored by being invited to address the Turkish parliament — it was the first time an Israeli president had addressed the parliament of a Muslim-majority country.
In 2008, right up until Israel launched the war on Gaza, Turkey was helping mediate indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria.
Turkey mediated five rounds of talks between Israeli and Syrian officials. Toward the end of Olmert’s term the two sides were on the verge of resuming direct negotiations.
At the last meeting between Olmert and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish leader called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and relayed messages to and from Olmert. But after Operation Cast Lead began in December 2008 and the freeze in negotiations with Syria, Erdoğan said Olmert had stabbed him in the back.
In 2010, while Israel was refusing to allow Turkey to serve as a mediator with Syria, former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Omert said during a conference at Tel Aviv University:
We can reach an understanding with the Syrians which would change the map in the Middle East. A decision on this issue must be made. It’s too easy being angry at Erdogan, but it would be wise to reconcile with him. He is a fair mediator. We need negotiations with Turkish mediation.
Now we learn from Wikileaks that during this period in which Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership, had made unprecedented efforts to serve as a peace-broker between Israel and its neighbors, key Israeli and American diplomats were in collusion with each other, reinforcing their shared and counter-productive view of Turkey’s prime minister.
Levy and Jeffrey were not looking at a real obstacle to diplomacy. They were revealing their own incompetence as diplomats by playing the game: it’s not what we do; it’s who we are.
This is the cable:
C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001549
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/26/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU IS
SUBJECT: ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TRACES HIS PROBLEMS TO ERDOGAN
REF: ANKARA 1532
Classified By: AMB James F. Jeffrey, for reasons 1.4(b,d)
¶1. (C) During an October 26 call on the Ambassador, Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy registered concern over the recent deterioration in his country’s bilateral relations with Turkey and the conviction that the relationship’s decline is attributable exclusively to Prime Minister Erdogan. Levy said Foreign Minister Davutoglu had relayed a message to him through the visiting Czech foreign minister that “things will get better.” He had also fielded messages from senior civil servants, xxxxx urging him to weather quietly Erdogan’s harsh public criticisms of Israel. The latter claimed Erdogan’s repeated angry references to the humanitarian situation in Gaza are for “domestic political consumption” only.
¶2. (C) Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel. Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously” and his hatred is spreading. Levy cited a perceived anti-Israeli shift in Turkish foreign policy, including the GoT’s recent elevation of its relations with Syria and its quest for observer status in the Arab League.
¶3. (C) Comment: Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel. xxxxx discusses contributing reasons for Erdogan’s tilt on Iran/Middle East isues, but antipathy towards Israel is a factor.