Bipartisan Senate Letter Rebukes Turkish Goverment
4:29 PM, Dec 11, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
A letter from 10 senators, led by Senators Nelson and Collins and ranging from Senator Feingold to Senator Inohfe, sharply rebukes the Turkish government for the "downward trend of relations between Turkey and Israel this past year." The senators point in particular to the Turkish government's exclusion of Israel from a recent NATO exercise, prompting the United States to pull out and the exercise to be canceled, and in a letter to supporters, Senator Gillibrand also noted the "pro-Iran statements" recently emanating from Istanbul. But this current Turkish government has given U.S. officials many reasons to be alarmed -- it's political and rhetorical support for Hamas, its ever closer ties to Iran, and its increasing hostility to Israel across a range of issues in international forums.
The recent visit of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is the peg for the letter and that trip, according to an official at one major Jewish organization, marked the first visit in recent memory of a Turkish prime minister that did not include a meeting with leaders of America's Jewish community. Erdogan's trip to DC did include a stop at the Mayflower where he delivered a diatribe against Israeli "sulfur bombs" (presumably he was referring to the use of white phosphorus for illumination in Operation Cast Lead) and the awful 30 minute wait he was recently subjected to on his way into Gaza to meet with Hamas officials (it's always possible there were some security concerns on the otherwise safe streets of Gaza City).
Despite President Obama's repeated overtures to the Muslim world, relations with Turkey do not seem to be on a productive course. One source tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Erdogan's meeting with President Obama was "tense" and included some "sharp exchanges, primarily over Iran."
A PDF of the letter and signatures is available here.