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Turkey, Israel Ties Further Weakened Over Paris Attacks

by Dorian Jones January 23, 2015

Turkey and Israel have been exchanging angry barbs in the aftermath of this month's Paris terror attacks.

The verbal sniping between former allies began at a news conference in Ankara a day after a massive solidarity rally was staged in the French capital to condemn the attacks that started with a mass shooting at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 'daring' to attend the march, urging him to "give an account for the children, women you massacred" in Gaza.

Netanyahu responded by calling the comments 'shameful,' saying they 'must be repudiated by the international community, because the war against terrorism will only succeed if it is guided by moral clarity.'

Kadri Gursel, political columnist for Turkey's Milliyet newspaper, says the exchanges show there can be no reconciliation under the countries' current political leadership.

'It shows the crisis situation goes on,' Gursel said. 'The Cold War setting continues despite every effort to normalize relations between Turkey and Israel. Whatever will be the intensity, the pressure that third parties [such as] the U.S. will apply, there is no hope for normalization between the two countries.'

Beyond the volley of angry sentiments, concern is growing in both Israel and Washington over Ankara's deepening relationship with Hamas. Washington has been working hard to rebuild relations between its key allies ever since Israeli commandos in 2010 killed nine Turks aboard a Turkish-led, nautical convoy trying to break Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

But tensions are likely to increase with Ankara offering sanctuary to Khaled Mashaal, the political leader of Hamas who was expelled from Qatar earlier this month.

Semih Idiz, diplomatic columnist for Turkey's Taraf newspaper, says the asylum offer is part of a long relationship between the Turkish government and Hamas.

'Well, the government is extremely pro-Hamas and pro- [Muslim] Brotherhood,' Idiz said. 'Erdogan has been seen and [Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu has been seen with both Mashaal and [former Egyptian President Mohammed] Morsi in the past and they are very chummy and they retain that.'

But Israel believes this relationship goes beyond just close ties, accusing Ankara of allowing Hamas to plan terrorist attacks from Turkish soil. Israel claims it recently foiled a series of attacks that were ordered by Hamas commanders operating from Turkey.

Ankara strongly denies the charge and says Israel has so far failed to provide any evidence.

But diplomatic columnist Idiz says Ankara is not likely to rethink its relationship with Hamas regardless of criticism from the West.

'Such reactions from Washington in particular will elicit a counter-reaction from Turkey, saying 'you know you first criticize Israel's brutality instead of Hamas, which is only trying to defend its people' and this sort of thing.' So I don't think criticism from Washington or the West about government links to Hamas is going to change the situation much,' he said. 'It might even aggravate it.'

Analysts say that as Erdogan's power grows, he is further distancing himself from Turkey's secular past, seeking to burnish his Islamist credentials and put Turkey forward as an exemplar for the Muslim world. He has increasingly cast Turkey as a defender of the Palestinians and a supporter of Hamas, raising Europe's and Washington's concerns about the country's direction.

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