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Thursday, July 20, 2006


Istanbul, 20 July (AKI) - Could growing Turkish outrage over Israel's military intervention in Gaza and Lebanon jeopardise the long-standing friendship between the Jewish state and Turkey, its most strategic ally in the Muslim world? On Wednesday,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Israel's assault on Lebanon.

"One cannot hold a country (Lebanon) repsonsible for an act by an organisation (Hezbollah). One cannot annihilate an entire country and all the civilians in it. It does not contribute to global peace."

Ordinary Turks appeared to share their premier's sentiments.

"Israel and Syria stir up trouble. But innocent people die. I support the Palestinians, they have been suffering for years," said Mehmet Demir, a Istanbul-based civil servant.

Pensioner Bedriye Tellioglu, also from Istanbul, was more direct. "I hate Israel. It wants to weaken Arabs with the support of the United States. I'm for the Arabs," he said.

Part of Turkey's anger with the conflict stems from the failure of its attempts to mediate in the early stages of the crisis when it sent a special envoy to meet with Syrian leader Basher al-Assad in a bid to convince Damascus to use its influence with Hamas to secure the release of the Israeli soldier.

Israel's destroying of the Erez Industrial Zone in Gaza further riled Ankara.

But despite political leaders' remarks, the media with its reportages detailing the harm caused to Lebanese and Palestinian civilians by Israeli bombs and anti-Israeli street protests, some analysts believe the Turkey-Israel friendship will survive the current crisis.

"Relations between Turkey and Israel are ultimately based on Turkey's relations with the United States," Bulent Akarcali, a government foreign policy advisor during the 1980s-90s, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"Turkey's national interests prevent it from cutting its ties with Israel. The reasons: Turkey needs the help of American Jewish lobbies to curb the influence of the Armenian lobbies who are working to have Armenian genocide claims to be accepted by Washington," says Akarcali who in 1984 first set up ties between Turkish parliamentarians and Jewish political lobbies in Washington.

Also according to the veteran foreign policy advisor, Turkey knows it can't count on the Arab world.

"Turks know that the Arabs did not support Turkey neither on the Cyprus nor the Armenian issues. In fact, despite repeated calls by Ankara, not a single Arab country has to date recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," he says.

Also business ties between Turkey and Israel are booming. The volume of trade between the two countries amounted to 30 billion dollars in 2005, while almost 400,000 Israeli tourists visted Turkey in 2005, a 30 percent increase over the previous year.

Ultimately, both countries view each other as a bulwarks against Islamic extremism and terrorism, an alliance which continues to be cemented by joint military exercises.
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