Reactions to Ecevit's accusation that Israel is committing genocide have shown how risky it is to throw stones when living in a glass house The Prime Minister truly made a gaffe by accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians or, to say the least, by saying things that might amount to making such an accusation.
What a big gaffe that was...
Can Ecevit possibly be unaware that the word he used has certain connotations, that it could be interpreted in various ways, and that it could cause so many misunderstandings?
Obviously, either he uttered that word deliberately, out of spite, or in a moment of "absent-mindedness!"
Ertugrul Ozkok made the best, and subtlest criticism regarding the PM's statement. He blamed this situation on the outdated Erica brand typing machine Ecevit has used all these years.
With this statement the PM must definitely have intended to boost the Palestinians' morale, and sent a message to his close friend Arafat to appease the reaction of the Turkish public. However, due to a single word he used, he caused all arrows to be pointed at Turkey.
The adverse reactions were so powerful that Ecevit had to apologize over and over. While trying to express his justified reaction to Israel's exaggerated stance against the Palestinians, the PM has caused a mess, acting like the legendary bull in the china shop.
He has bolstered the impression that Ankara does not have a Middle East policy, or that it speaks in so many different voices, and that this causes a chaotic atmosphere.
First. Turkey signs a $680 million tank modernization agreement with Israel, citing it as a rationale deal for the contributions of the Jewish American lobby. And, replying to public criticism, refers to Israel's technological superiority, and to the importance of the strategic cooperation between the two countries. It announces that despite all the pressure being exerted on it, it will not suspend the agreement.
At the same time, since April 25 is drawing near, Turkey sends messages of support to the Jewish American lobby, seeking their support against the Armenian genocide claims. It sends the message that the statement the White House will be issuing on that date must not contain the word genocide. It tries to draw both the Jews and the Bush Administration to his side.
And, immediately after that, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem invites Sharon and Arafat to an international conference in Turkey. Ankara aims to increase its prestige and influence in the region through such a conference -- which could be staged only with the United States' blessing.
And then, as if he is not aware of all this at all, the PM comes up and accuses Israel of committing genocide.
This is incredible.
The White House is up in arms, as well as the Jewish lobby. Israel has a strong reaction.
'What was your war on the PKK being called?'
While talking with an American source in Washington who is close to the Bush Administration, and has been closely following the developments, I heard speculative comments in the following vein:
"The Bush Administration could not believe its ears. They consider themselves to have been stabbed in the back by a close friend. They cannot make up their minds on whether to believe that this is due to Ecevit being an elderly person. They don't know how they can trust Turkey. They recall especially the way Turkey fought against terrorism in the 1990s, using military units and tanks. Washington sympathized with Turkey's military intervention that extended all the way into northern Iraq. What Israel is doing is no different. The suicide bombers commit an act of terrorism, and Israel's response amounts to fighting against terrorism."
These words are critical and threatening.
Ecevit's "absent-mindedness," or his "affection" for Arafat, will obviously cost Turkey dearly.
No one objects to Turkey making its reaction known. In fact, the Turkish reaction is found justified. This is because everybody believes that Israel has stretched things out of proportion when conducting this military operation.
The problem stems from the word "genocide," and the reactions, reverberations, still continue.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this story, I wonder whether it would be fit to say that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.
Mehmet Ali Birand's article is translated by TDN staff email@example.com
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit of Turkey told a gathering of his political party last week that Israel's military raids into the West Bank were genocide.
Israel might have ignored the statement had it come from another Muslim leader, but Turkey is Israel's best friend in the region. So Mr. Ecevit's choice of words set off protests that heightened strains in a relationship of strategic importance to both countries and to the United States. "We have some common interests in the Middle East, but whether we can sustain the relationship with what is happening now in Palestine is a question," Ilter Turkmen, a retired Turkish diplomat and foreign minister, said today.
Pro-Islamic politicians in the opposition have called for a re-evaluation of Turkey's ties with Israel, and mainstream politicians and newspapers have joined in condemning what they describe as Israeli aggression.
As much as Turkish politicians may want to criticize Israel, however, they are restricted by deep military and economic bonds. While other governments in the region have kept Israel at arm's length, the Turks have embraced it.
Turkey recently awarded Israel a $670 million contract to modernize 170 M-60 tanks. Israel already was upgrading Turkish warplanes in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. Turkey also provides airspace for Israeli military exercises, and the countries share intelligence and military technology.
Bilateral trade topped $1 billion last year, and long-running negotiations are continuing for Turkey to sell Israel $50 million to $75 million worth of water annually. Israelis are among the most numerous tourists on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
"We live in the same region, and we face the same reality," said David Sultan, Israel's ambassador to Turkey.
The friendship has multiplied Turkey's influence in Washington. The pro-Israeli lobby argued Turkey's case for increased international financial aid. American Jewish organizations have lobbied on Turkey's behalf against attempts by Armenian-Americans to have the killing of Armenians between 1915 and 1921 in Turkey declared a genocide.
"We have put a lot of effort in on behalf of Turkey," said Barry Jacobs, director of strategic studies in Washington for the American Jewish Committee. So his organization and other American Jewish groups were stung and angered when Mr. Ecevit said at a party meeting in Ankara that "genocide is being committed" against the Palestinians.
Nine organizations, including B'nai B'rith and the Anti-Defamation League, fired off a letter telling the Turkish leader that his remark was "absolutely wrong as fact and offensive as comment." Israel also lodged diplomatic complaints.
The next day, Mr. Ecevit downplayed his statement, saying his words only reflected concerns felt in the region and Turkey.
Other Turkish officials hurried to repair the damage by assuring Israeli and American diplomats that Turkey's basic policy remained unchanged.
"Turkey's relations with Israel are based on sound foundations," a senior Turkish government official said today. "We believe these relations will play an important role in ensuring peace in the region."
The Israelis had no desire to fan the flames either. Mr. Sultan said Israel was satisfied with Mr. Ecevit's clarification.