Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip ErdoganIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again verbally attacked Israel in a public forum, this time at a United Nations conference in Vienna.

In a speech about Islamophobia in Europe at the opening session of the fifth U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, Erdogan nevertheless found a way to angle the address towards an attack on the Jewish State.

“Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and facism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” the Turkish leader told the gathering.

Erdogan’s comment followed by several days a meeting in Ankara with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which the two discussed the need for diplomatic reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, among other issues. 

In a report published earlier this week in The Jordan Times, however, the Turkish leader appeared to remain intractable on the subject, saying in a reference to Israel, “We will not remain silent in the face of the cruel dictator, the mute devil, who mercilessly carried out massacres against his own people, but who has remained silent and unresponsive toward those who have occupied his own territories for decades.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also likely to broach the subject when he arrives in the Turkish capital on March 1, inasmuch as the region is quickly becoming a tinderbox and Ankara – a member of NATO – must soon decide where its loyalties will lie.

Over the past three years, Israel has made numerous efforts to repair the fractures in the relationship with Turkey that first appeared following Israel’s 3-week Operation Cast Lead mini-war against Gaza terrorists in the winter of 2008-2009.  

Erdogan’s Islamist rage over the Jewish State’s air strikes on Gaza terrorist targets, launched to silence the constant rocket fire that had rained down from the region for years on southern Israeli communities, did not abate, however. 

The subsequent deaths in May 2010 of nine armed men who attacked IDF commandos boarding a Turkish-owned vessel in an illegal flotilla attempting to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza further worsened the breach.

Erdogan’s hostile rhetoric against the Jewish State since that time has escalated, leaving little room for renewal of the broken ties between the two countries. 

Nevertheless, private citizens and some lower-level politicians have continued to maintain their bonds and quietly have pushed back-channel efforts to rebuild the relationship.

Erdogan insists that Israel publicly apologize for the deaths of the terror activists who attacked the IDF soldiers on the Mavi Marmara vessel as they boarded to redirect it to Ashdod port, and pay compensation to their families.  Some Israeli government officials have expressed willingness to pay compensation and express “regret” over the incident – but not to apologize; a small difference, but one that is important, and that both sides recognize.

Erdogan is unwilling to accept the Israeli compromise, and Israel is unwilling to meet Erdogan more than halfway.

But while the Turkish prime minister continues attacking a would-be ally, his Iranian neighbor is rapidly moving to consolidate power in the countries around him, with preparations for an apparent nuclear weapons arsenal.