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Thursday, June 10, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Turkish opposition charges Erdogan exploiting, ramping up Israel conflict

ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has encountered opposition regarding plans to suspend relations with Israel.


Opposition parliamentarians have accused Erdogan of engineering a crisis with Israel in an effort to mobilize Islamist support ahead of elections. The parliamentarians said Erdogan has been tainted by corruption and embezzlement in what has sharply reduced his electoral support.

"Erdogan uses the Ten Commandments as a tool," Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said. "But the Eighth Commandment says, 'Thou shall not steal.' What about that?"

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Opposition sources said Erdogan has been discussing the feasibility of moving up elections, scheduled for July 2011, to capitalize on the crisis with Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the prime minister, who has proposed that the government hire 50,000 people over the next year, hoped that his Islamist constituency would mobilize behind the ruling Justice and Development Party.

The opposition charged that Erdogan sought a confrontation with Israel when he supported a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to break the Egyptian and Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Opposition deputies said Ankara could have defused the situation through diplomacy with Jerusalem.

"He [Erdogan] almost declared war against Israel in his party's meeting [on June 1]," Kilicdaroglu said. "The Turkish Foreign Ministry should publicly disclose correspondence made with Israel so that we may all learn whether Israel warned Turkey or not. Nothing should remain secret."

Erdogan also faced criticism for his anti-Israeli policy from pro-Kurdish constituents. At one forum, the prime minister was asked how he could condemn Israel for the bloody naval interception of a Turkish-flagged ship to the Gaza Strip when Ankara was killing Kurdish insurgents.

"How can you compare the two?" Erdogan asked.

The prime minister has accused the opposition Republican People's Party of supporting Israel. Erdogan said the opposition wanted to limit the pro-Islamist government to conventional diplomacy.

"Some people speak in the name of Tel Aviv, advocate for Tel Aviv," Erdogan said. "They question our way of diplomacy. The way you did things put us in this dire situation. As I said earlier, we do not work as the 'mon cher' diplomats do."

But opposition sources and independent analysts asserted that Erdogan faced opposition to his anti-Israeli policy from within the Justice and Development Party, which commands a majority of parliament. They cited statements by the deputy prime minister as well as defense and foreign ministers that Ankara wanted to defuse the crisis with Israel.

"If the prime minister wants to understand who is the advocate of Tel Aviv, he should look to his right and he will see [Deputy Prime Minister] Bulent Arinc making different statements from the government," Kilicdaroglu told Turkish television on June 7.

In June, the cleric deemed as the Islamic guide of AKP criticized the Turkish-organized flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Fethullah Gulen, who heads the largest Muslim movement in Turkey and now lives in the United States, issued a statement that Ankara should have first received permission from Israel before sending the flotilla. Later, senior AKP officials agreed.

"The government is purposely changing the agenda of the country," Kilicdaroglu said. "Some 114 Turkish soldiers have died since the AKP's move to end the terror problem in the country. Likewise, there have been recent developments in the CHP's agenda regarding unemployment and poverty. However, all discussion of these topics has ended. Nobody talks about them anymore."

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