Dear Friends of Israel,
When Chaled Mashal, the leader of the Palestinian Hamas Party, addressed Turkey’s governing party’s convention, the AKP party, in Ankara, he stated, “Turkey has uncovered the bright side of Islam again.” He told the many thousands of people, assembled in a soccer stadium, “Erdogan, you are not just the leader of Turkey, you are the leader of the entire Muslim world.”
Erdogan himself then proclaimed loudly in a long speech that his party, grounded in Islam and having governed for ten years now, has become a shining example for the entire Islamic world. He actually has had some remarkable success, such as tripling the average income for the bulk of the population. However, he also understood not to place Islam front and center, but rather to introduce it in a progressive framework. Thus, his party bears the auspicious name, “Party of Justice and Development.” According to Erdogan, his party has supported freedom and basic human rights. This has become an example in all Muslim countries, far beyond Turkey’s borders.
Leaders from throughout the Muslim world were invited to the party convention in Ankara, such as Mursi from Egypt, Atambayev from Kirghizstan and Barzani from Iraq. There is no doubt that Turkey has become a powerful leader, both in the region and in throughout the Muslim world.
Erdogan’s critics however accuse him of suppressing competing ideas by using the legal system to silence his opponents. Hundreds of politicians, academics and journalists are brought before the court and accused of conspiracy. Furthermore, over 300 high-ranking officials have already received long prison sentences for attempting to topple Erdogan’s government ten years ago.
In the west, the developments in Turkey are generally seen in a positive light because Erdogan defends Democracy and the rule of law. There are some critics however, who are asking whether all of it is true.
Erdogan also desires to change the constitution, because it was written three decades ago, immediately following a military coup. At the same time, he wants to change the system of government to a presidential democracy, similar to France’s, but his opponents accuse him of simply shoring up his own power.
The current crisis in neighboring Syria has contributed to Turkey’s and Erdogan’s rise to prominence in international politics. Washington sees Turkey as a key player in supporting the Syrian opposition, and the region after Assad is gone. That is a cause for concern in Israel, because the posture of Erdogan and his government toward Israel is increasingly brusque, as his influence extends ever further beyond Turkey’s borders. Erdogan also renewed his criticism toward those who stand behind the Assad regime in Syria. He stated that history will not leave those who protect oppressors unpunished. In the past, he has repeatedly described Israel as the oppressor of the Palestinians and the United States as the nation that protects Israel. Thus, it is easy to discern his position toward those nations as well.
The Egyptian President, Mursi, told the audience that a quartet of regional powers, consisting of Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran, would push for a solution to the conflict in Syria. Cooperation among these once-rival powers doesn’t exactly bode well for Israel.
In the comforting knowledge that an infinitely stronger power stands behind Israel,