Updated: September 24, 2013 6:27AM
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is often portrayed as the model of a modern, moderate Islamist ruler. But he showed himself to be anything but moderate and more medieval than 21st century when he got around to talking about the ouster of fellow Islamist Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt. It was, Erdogan said, the work of — who else? — Israel.
Erdogan was speaking to like-minded folks, provincial leaders of his political party, when he said, “What do they say in Egypt? Democracy is not the ballot box. What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation.”
His documentation turned out to be a video of one of those college talkfests, this one a conference on the “Arab Spring” at Tel Aviv University two years ago. Among the panelists were French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, and Tzipi Livni, now the justice minister for Israel but then only an opposition politician.
During the course of the discussion, Levy noted that democracy involves important values and is more than one election, as Morsi would ultimately prove by trying to use his elected office to bring about a coup placing the Muslim Brotherhood in permanent power in Cairo. Asked by the moderator whether Egypt’s military should intervene if the Brotherhood won an election — remember this is in June 2011 before Morsi’s election — Levy said, “I will urge the prevention of them coming to power, but by all sorts of means.”
Like I said, Levy is French, not Israeli, but he is a Jew. That’s enough for the likes of Erdogan to make him part of that international Jewish conspiracy behind Israel and everything else the Islamists see wrong in the world. This is not the first time Erdogan has jumped into the anti-Semitic swamp. He’s accused Israel of “genocide” against Palestinians, equated Zionism to fascism and, channeling the worst of the Middle Ages, blamed an “interest rate lobby” for protests in Turkey against his rule.
Yes, a government in Cairo led by a military committed to preserving the Egypt-Israel peace treaty is better for the Jewish state than one ruled by the Islamist Brotherhood and its hatred for Israel and support for the terrorist Hamas overlords of the Gaza Strip. Published reports tell of cooperation between the armies of Israel and Egypt to curb terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula. Those are also, it’s worth noting, foreign policy goals of the United States government.
But the notion that millions of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo to demand Morsi’s ouster at the behest of Israel or that Egypt’s army is a Jewish-controlled puppet is just plain . . . well, you pick the word describing such a flight from reality.
President Barack Obama once described Erdogan to Time magazine as one of the handful of world leaders he has the best relations with. A White House spokesman “strongly” condemned Erdogan’s rant as “offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong.” But neither Erdogan nor other strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashir al-Assad pay much attention to what comes from the Obama White House.
A top achievement of Obama’s trip to Israel in March was the rapprochement he was credited with bringing about between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after years of deteriorating relations between two countries that were once allies. So much for that. Erdogan has proved that it is his Islamist-rooted animosity toward Israel and Jews that is behind the waning of a relationship that once showed the world that a moderate nation where the people are Muslim could have a cordial, productive alliance with the Jewish state.