Today, a ceasefire was announced in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas. With the current crisis apparently over, America must reflect back on what happened and how surrounding nations—including some of our allies in the region—reacted. Of note are Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements toward Israel.
On Tuesday, Erdogan shockingly called America’s ally Israel a “terrorist state.” He further charged that Israel—for protecting itself from the some 800 rockets that have been launched from Gaza in 2012—is conducting “terrorist acts.”
Since when is self-defense a “terrorist act”?
And this, coming from a world leader whom just this year President Obama listed as someone he had a friendship and bond of trust with.
So, a terrorist organization commits acts of terror against a U.S. ally, that ally gets called a “terrorist state” for defending itself by one of Obama’s world leader pals, and the President’s Administration offers a mere slap on the wrist.
To its credit, the Obama Administration did initially state that the violence was due to Hamas constantly attacking Israel. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made it clear that “Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any close[sic] to achieving self-determination.”
Hamas has been classified as a “Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. State Department since 1997 and has been conducting anti-Israeli attacks since its formation in 1987.
The recent conflict is the most violent in the past four years, made deadlier by Hamas’ use of Iranian-designed rockets, which are more lethal and have a longer range. These rockets are able to attack Tel Aviv for the first time.
For Israel, there is at least less collateral damage than there is in Gaza. This is thanks to the Iron Dome, a missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming rockets, artillery, and aircraft. The U.S. has been a staunch supporter of the Iron Dome and continues to provide support for the system.
Without the Iron Dome, the damage in Israel would have been far worse than the damage in Gaza, considering the amount of rockets fired by Hamas.
Now that the dust has begun to settle, President Obama would be wise to reaffirm America’s close partnership with Israel and condemn those who label our ally as a “terrorist state.”
This whole ordeal shows that Obama has a serious Turkey problem, not a friendship. The U.S. and Turkey ought to share many common strategic interests, and it is also in Turkey’s interest to have positive relations with Israel. The White House is wrong to let Erdogan’s pandering to the Arab Street go unchecked. Ignoring or encouraging bad behavior is bad for U.S.–Turkish relations and for cementing Turkey’s place as an important force for peace and prosperity in Southern Europe and the Middle East.