Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always had it in for Israel and frequently gives his antipathy expression, albeit more in word than in deed.
His landmark election as Turkish president on August 10 has clearly encouraged him to give his hates free rein.
Israel’s military planners are therefore taking no chances and getting ready to stand up to Turkish air and naval forces in case he decides to send them into action to cut the Jewish state down to size, military sources report exclusively to DEBKA Weekly. They draw their assessment of a likely clash from information received from Ankara that Erdogan himself had raised the idea with his advisers more than once.
Counting on his 52 percent election win fortifying his 12-year grip on power as prime minister, President Erdogan has been urging his military chiefs to go for another victory in a limited skirmish, like the encounter he claims Turkey won in May 2010, when a flotilla led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara was forcibly prevented from breaking the Israel embargo on the Gaza Strip by an Israeli naval commando raid on the ship.
Nine Turkish citizens were killed and 20 Israeli soldiers injured in the encounter, which became the pretext for a bitter diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Jerusalem.
US halts Israel arms, sells missiles to Turkey
Our Jerusalem sources point to the timing of a Wall Street Journal piece Thursday August 14 under the headline: “Israel Outflanks White House in Pressing Gaza Strategy-White House Now Scrutinizing Israeli Requests for Ammunition."
Its report that US President Barack Obama had prevented the transfer of Hellfire missiles to the Israeli air force during its operations in Gaza appeared just before Washington announced it had cleared the sale of up to $320 million in advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) to Turkey.
The White House, according to the article, judged “Binyamin Netanyahu and his national security team … reckless and untrustworthy,” and a senior Obama administration official, in a remarkably harsh swipe at an Israeli leader, was quoted as saying that “they (Netanyahu and his team) are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."
For months, DEBKA Weekly has reported on the widening fault line between Obama and Netanyahu, but our sources say its cause is not as presented by the White House to the WSJ. Israel has not tried to manipulate the Obama administration, as US officials would have it, but rather made a strategic choice to take a different path from the one chosen by the Obama administration.
Obama circles back to Erdogan
This path came from the emergence of a military and diplomatic strategic alliance forged between Israel Riyadh and Cairo ahead of the Gaza campaign against Hamas, on the strength of their shared interests.
(See a separate item in this issue and the opening article in DEBKA Weekly 644 of July 25: “The Gaza War: The Regional Dimension-The Gaza War against Hamas is Managed by a Troika: Abdullah, Sisi and Netanyahu”).
The ill will between the Israeli and US presidents has been escalating since Obama took office in 2009. It was exacerbated by Obama’s outreach to Iran. But the US president’s willingness to give Turkey missiles while withholding them from Israel goes far beyond personal rancor. It is the American president’s payback for the united front Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Netanyahu have presented against his Mid East policy.
Faced with this new alliance, Obama has fallen back into the arms of his old ally, Erdogan.
Obama once perceived the Turkish leader as a moderate Muslim politician and an example which the rest of the Muslim world would be well advised to follow. But, by 2012, their relationship had seriously soured in the light of his non-acceptance in the Arab arena following in one diplomatic fiasco after another, his combative personality and his imperial pretensions.
The revival of the US-Turkey friendship, coupled with Erdogan's anti-Semitic campaign rhetoric – he and his cohorts dubbed Israel a Nazi state that exists to slaughter Muslims – have led Israel’s military thinkers to posit that a violent clash of some sorts is on the horizon.