08/24 TDN: Turkey looks to Israel to influence Jewish lobby

Turkey looks to Israel to influence Jewish lobby
Friday, August 24, 2007

Turkey asks Israel to convince the Jewish lobby not to follow in the footsteps of the ADL. PM Erdoğan is expected to call Israel's President Shimon Peres to deal with the issue at the highest level

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

In the wake of a prominent American Jewish's group breaking ranks from a long-standing alliance with Turkey over the word "genocide" as a description of massacres of Armenians in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, Ankara yesterday mobilized to pull Israel more tightly into the symbolic but highly emotional debate.

The new turn in the long-debated issue of whether the killing and deportations of Armenians in 1915 amounts to "genocide," came Wednesday when the Anti-Defamation League (ADF) announced a reversal of it's long-held position, which mirrored that of other Jewish groups and the state of Israel, that while a tragedy the circumstances were far different than that of the Nazi-led Holocaust of World War II which is universally regarded as the greatest genocide in history. With the U.S. Congress set to consider a resolution embracing the Armenian claims of genocide –claims that are disputed by many historians and the Turkish government – the ADF move represents a huge potential setback in Ankara's ongoing effort to forestall the diplomatic fallout of a such a resolution. While technically symbolic, the U.S. resolution would follow those passed by similar legislatures around the world that have tipped world interpretation of sensitive historical events toward a version of history deeply offensive to many Turks and their government.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül met with the Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Pinhas Avivi yesterday and expressed Turkey's concerns and expectations from the Israeli government. “It is a great disappointment for us, who gave support to the Jews for centuries. This decision contradicts with the main argument of Jews, which argues that there is nothing worse than the Holocaust. Our bilateral relations will suffer from such a decision,” Gül told Avivi, according to diplomatic sources. Gül said that historians are split on the issue and that Turkey has proposed the establishment of a joint commission by historians, which was rejected by Armenia. He also asked Israel's assistance in blocking similar moves by other Jewish organizations.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan placed an emergency to call Israeli President Shimon Peres late yesterday but the contents of their discussion were not revealed as the Turkish Daily News went to print. Turkey wants to see Israel deal with the issue at the highest level while some diplomats say that Israel's stance on the issue will also be an indicator for the future of our ties.

In Istanbul, Israel's Consul General Mordehai Amihai reacted to the ADL news with concern and told the TDN the organization's shift in policy reflects neither the position of Israel nor that of the Jewish community in Turkey: "I hope the Turkish population can make the distinction between the State of Israel, the organization (ADL) and the Jewish population in Turkey."

In the meantime, Turkey's ambassador to Tel Aviv, Namık Tan broke short a vacation to Turkey yesterday and rushed back to Israel following the ADL's decision.

Israel, Turkey steps in

Right after the ADL's decision was made public Wednesday both Turkish and Israeli ministries made statements. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Levent Bilman, in a written statement, said that there is no consensus among historians about how to define the events of 1915.

“The ADL's decision to rewrite history is contradictory and the reason behind it is not understood,” said Bilman.

Turkish Jews also criticized the ADL's decision pointing to the historical ties between Turks and Jews. On Wednesday, the community's formal organization issued a statement expressing its dismay. Yesterday, a prominent businessman and member of the community second those comments to the TDN.

"Personally, I think what we are witnessing is just an internal skirmish within the ADL itself," said businessman, Marcel Saül. "The decision is wrong, but I don't think it should reflect on the historic solidarity between Turks and Jews on this issue and many others." The Israeli Embassy in Ankara also confirmed that there was no change in their official stance regarding the 1915-1916 incidents, in a written statement made late Wednesday.

“The State of Israel has never denied these horrible events; on the contrary, we understand the intensity of the emotion connected with this matter on both sides, considering the high number of victims and terrible suffering which the Armenian people endured,” the statement read. Underlining that this issue became a loaded political issue between the Turks and Armenians the Embassy stated, “The State of Israel, therefore, asks that neither one side nor the other be taken and that no definitions be made of what happened. We hope that both sides will enter into an open dialogue which will enable them to heal the open wounds that have remained for many decades.”

After the statements made by the ministry, Israel and Turkish Jews on Wednesday, positive feedback was received from Jews in the U.S., said ministry sources.

Turkey annuls the lobby contract

Shocked at the ADL's decision, Turkey decided to annul a contract with the lobbying firm DLA Piper and stay with Livingstone firm. The lobby firms are supposed to use their influence on the members of Congress and some other high-level administration officials. DLA Piper is known to be close to the Democrats in the United States.

Source: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=81739