State of Affairs: Israel & Turkey
©January 24, 2010 Asher Intrater
Here is an update from our partner and emissary on Turkey - Israel relations:
In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were expelled from Spain and received by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. The Ottoman Empire then became the home of Sephardic Jewry for 400 years, until the empire's demise in 1910 (shortly before the advent of WWI). In 1992, Turkey and Israel (together with worldwide Jewry) celebrated 500 years of good relations.
We have seen a significant shift in Israeli Turkish relations recently. Relations between these historic allies and friends have begun to deteriorate over the last year
It began with Operation Cast Lead, Israel's response to nearly eight years of bombing from the Gaza strip on cities of southern Israel, when the Turkish Prime Minister overtly criticized Israeli actions and culminated in a demonstrative outburst against President Shimon Peres at the Davos World Economic Summit in Switzerland in 2009. Subsequently, numerous other events in Turkey signaled that something was amiss. A fictional television series on a government sponsored channel depicted Israeli actions against Palestinians in Gaza with brutal scenes of Israeli soldiers killing babies, children, and other innocent civilians. This enflamed public sentiment and, as a result, some Turks publicly demonstrated their hatred towards Israel. Things seemed to settle down but the damage was done. Israeli citizens cut back travel to Turkey, a favorite tourist destination, and their once friendly neighbor was viewed with growing suspicion.
In the fall of 2009, Turkey cancelled joint military exercises with Israel and more criticism from the Prime Minister surfaced against Israel. This, together with Turkish leaders hosting Islamic leaders such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, allowed Israeli suspicions to grow. A subsequent a peace making visit by Israeli Knesset Minister Fuad Ben Eliezer seemed to help, but nothing prepared Israelis for what would come next.
While hosting the Lebanese Prime Minister, Said Hariri, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, again strained already tense relations by saying Israel was a threat to world peace. Public sentiment was further inflamed by the airing of a fictional Turkish television episode that showed Israeli Mossad agents and other Israeli diplomats carrying out operations against innocent Turkish citizens with graphic scenes again of children being killed by Israeli agents.
Subsequently, the Turkish ambassador was summoned to meet with the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon. The meeting, which occurred last week, set off an international incident that hit the front pages of the press in both countries. Ayalon insulted the Turkish ambassador before the press by seating him on a lower seat, placing only the Israeli flag on the table between them, and refusing to shake his hand publicly. He then explained in Hebrew to the press what and why he was doing it. The focus of the crisis in relations then shifted to Israel and the Turkish Prime Minister delivered an ultimatum to Israel. Deputy foreign minister Ayalon must either apologize or Turkey would recall their ambassador. An explanation was given with a general apology about the incident but in the end it took the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres to appease Turkish leadership.
This week a visit to Turkey by the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak helped ease tensions when the Turks said in conclusion of his visit that he was a man with whom they could work. It is unclear what caused this response, as Barak authorized Operation Cast Lead.
Why is this important? We have constantly maintained that significant political shifts are often an indication of spiritual changes happening as well. What do these changes mean for the body of Messiah and the Lord's work in the region? It's clear that Turkey's direction as a nation has changed. The country once oriented towards Europe and integration into the European Union is now seeking to build alliances with Islamic allies and specifically with extremist regimes in the region like Iran and Syria. The country's attitude concerning the Jewish people, Israel, and Israel's spiritual destiny is also changing. There is no question that Turkey's Islamic oriented government is a result of a spiritual change in Turkey. Islam is on the move in the country and it seems they are realigning themselves with their religious roots. The nation is also becoming more divided between the religious and secular, with many voicing opposition to the policies of the current ruling. It may be as some in Turkey have said that this Islamic leaning government is ultimately leading some to consider other answers for their spiritual life and destiny. If so, the situation for those praying, believing, and working for the salvation of a significant remnant of the peoples in Turkey could be in fact better and more promising that we thought.
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