Ankara has been making efforts at repairing its relationship with Jerusalem, and simultaneously at displaying a more benevolent attitude toward Turkish Jewry. In one example, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made public his plans to act as a witness at a wedding in a synagogue in Istanbul. However, argues Aykan Erdemir, the Turkish government must do more than make a few public gestures if it really wants to regain its former ally:
Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Democracy Party (AKP), which has ruled Turkey since 2002, is attempting to paper over some ugly truths. The AKP is desperate to overhaul its failed foreign policy—including an ongoing crisis with Russia, fear of Iran’s rising regional hegemony, and the collapse of Turkey’s vision for Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt and Syria. With its list of regional enemies mounting, the AKP hopes to steer Turkey back to its traditional allies: the European Union, NATO, and Israel. This is why Erdogan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric and miraculously came to appreciate the transactional relationships he can establish with pragmatic counterparts, rather than with the Islamists he was courting just months ago.
Turkey’s government, however, still offers frequent reminders of its hypocrisy on Jews and Israel. Following last month’s suicide bombing in Istanbul, a board member of the AKP’s women’s branch in the city tweeted her wish for the wounded Israeli tourists to have been killed. A few weeks before, a chief adviser to the president appeared in pro-government media to attack political rivals as “raising soldiers for the Jews.” The board member had to leave her post but the chief adviser is still serving. . . .
Turkish-Israeli rapprochement is important for regional stability. A sustainable relationship, however, cannot be built on hypocrisy and silence. Turkish society needs to recognize and confront the pervasive anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment that has taken hold of wide segments of the population, due in large part to the influence of the AKP. A future built on dialogue must start with genuine conversation about the wrongs of the past, but also about the dangerous politics that have led us to this perilous present.