Israel’s Shimon Peres Reacts to the Turkish Elections

10 Jun


Newspapers reported on June 9th that former Israeli president Shimon Peres (2007-2014) was pleased by the outcome in Turkey. He is quoted as saying “I am happy about what happened in Turkey – Erdoğan wanted to turn Turkey into Iran, and there is no room for two Iran’s in the Middle East.”


It is worth recalling that the downward spiral in relations between Turkey and Israel started in a real way when Erdoğan attacked Israel and Peres personally for defending Israel’s massive attack on Gaza at the 2009 World Economic Forum in the course of a panel in which both he and Peres were members. Erdoğan responded to Peres’ contention that Hamas was responsible for violence against Israeli civilians. His words were undiplomatically blunt: “Mr. Peres, you are a senior citizen and you speak in a loud tone. I feel that your raised voice is due to the guilt you feel. But be sure that my voice will not be raised as yours is. When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you struck and killed innocent children on the beaches.” So piercing the haze that separates these polite evasions of such international events from the cruel realities under discussion was a welcome rarity: on this occasion Erdoğan was confronting the naked face of power with a truth that needed to be heard. After

interference from the chair, Erdoğan strode off the stage announcing that he was through forever with the World Economic Forum, not for allowing Peres to speak, but for the attempting to stifle a response.


The deterioration in Turkish/Israeli relations climaxed the following year when Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel among six in a freedom flotilla containing peace activists bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza and seeking to break the Israeli blockade. The incident on May 31, 2010 resulted in the death of nine Turkish nationals, and created an enduring rupture in the political relations between the two countries that continues despite efforts by the American president, Barack Obama, to encourage normalization. Turkey is prepared to compromise on the issues raised by the Mavi Marmara attack, but to its credit will not accept normalization until Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza and ceases its use of massive force against the totally vulnerable Gazan civilian population.


Erdoğan’s departure from diplomatic protocol at the World Economic Forum illustrated his impulsive tendency to vent his feeling in public places without the usual filters of self-censorship that is second nature for most politicians. Of course, assessing such outbursts generally depends on the context and on whether what is being said so forthrightly has merit or not. Erdoğan’s public venting in relation to policies that were sensitive for secular Turks became particularly frequent, intensifying polarization, especially after the AKP’s one-sided victory in the 2011 general election after which the Turkish leader did seem to embrace a more majoritarian view of democracy (acting on the mandate of the majority of voters), and abandoning the pragmatism of his earlier posture based on an acceptance of republican democracy (that is, respect for minority values and views, checks and balances on the exercise of state power).


Reverting to the recent Peres assertion, it is certainly inflammatory and deeply misleading to link Turkey under the AKP with Iran, and to contend that Erdoğan’s hidden project is to convert Turkey into a second Iran. This is both false and insulting, as if Turkey is incapable of self-determination according to the declared will of its own public and elected leaders. There exists no credible evidence that Turkey has in any way endorsed the defining feature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, namely, a theocratic mode of governance.


Peres also essentializes Iran, refusing to acknowledge its recent evolution as a result of Hassan Rouhani’s election as president in 2013 and Iran’s forthcoming nuclear diplomacy that went the extra mile in search of a formula that would normalize its regional and global relations, which if accepted by the West and put into practiced, will almost certainly be viewed as a major contribution to regional and world peace. Peres speaks as if Iran is the hermetically sealed embodiment of political evil rather than a country that has struggled to overcome its autocratic past under the Shah, and managed to be stable during this period of exceptional regional turmoil with its theocracy displaying a willingness to indulge a limited democracy despite threats and provocations from the United States and Israel. There is much to criticize in Iran, but for such criticism to be responsible, it should be responsive to actualities, especially in the Middle East where there are such scant grounds for stability, let alone justice.


In important respects, the outcome of the Turkish elections is far better interpreted as a Kurdish HDP victory rather than an Erdoğan AKP defeat. Time will tell whether the Kurds will be constructive and creative in this phase of their political engagement within Turkey and in relation to Kurdish political developments in neighboring countries. It will also determine whether Erdoğan is statesmanlike and creative in shaping the political future of the country, taking to heart the electoral message that any shift to a presidential system is not now in the interests of the country.

24 Responses to “Israel’s Shimon Peres Reacts to the Turkish Elections”

  1. baroukh June 11, 2015 at 12:28 am #

    Mr Falk,

    Are you aware that the following sentences are completely misleading?
    “The deterioration in Turkish/Israeli relations climaxed the following year when Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel among six in a freedom flotilla containing peace activists bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza and seeking to break the Israeli blockade. . The incident on May 31, 2010 resulted in the death of nine Turkish nationals…”

    By the way, do you feel obsessed by Israel?

    • Gene Schulman June 11, 2015 at 5:11 am #

      In what way are these above sentences misleading? They describe exactly what happened. I would also remind you that one one American was killed.

  2. Carlos June 11, 2015 at 1:40 am #

    baroukh. What is misleading about Richard’s
    outline of what happened with Marvi Marmara?
    Are you referring to’the deterioration in
    Turkish/Israeli relations?’ If a deterioration did
    not happen. It should have, the world saw the brutality of Israeli commandos boarding that ship of peaceful protestors,killing 9 Turkish youngsters. As with most Israeli aggression, the world,including UN,turned away. Richard
    analyses and shines a light on injustice. That was his role as Special Reporteur. He is to be applauded.

  3. wingsprd June 11, 2015 at 6:45 am #

    Baroukh. What is misleading about Richard’s outline of what happened with the Mavi Marmara?Are you referring to the deterioration in Turkish/Israel relations? If a deterioration didn’t happen, it should have. The world saw the dreadful brutality of the Israeli commandos boarding that ship of peaceful protestors. Unfortunately as with most of israel’s aggression, the world has turned away.”Obsessed by Israel”? Richard analyses and shines a light on injustices. That was his role as Special Rapporteur. He is to be

    • Gene Schulman June 11, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

      Don’t know how Carlos and wingsprd came up with identical comments, but both are correct: Richard is to be applauded.

      Happy to see Richard deleted the hateful and vitriolic comment by Epstein.

      • wingsprd June 12, 2015 at 12:59 am #

        Simple explanation, one sent I phone, one tablet, not sure came through.

  4. Laurie Knightly June 11, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    There is considerable question, however, about the sincerity of Erdogan’s dramatic performance at the World Economic Forum in 2009. It’s more likely that pressure from Turkish opposition parties prompted the belated moral indignation. The already strong bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel increased even more dramatically between 2009 and 2014. The opposition parties in Turkey have pressed the government to revise its economic ties with Israel and have accused the government of exploiting the Gaza issue for political reasons. Turkey recently granted an Israeli mining company exploration rights, moreover, while spouting simultaneously about the conditions in Gaza.

    Turkey recognized Israel in 1949 and the two have had a devoted symbiotic relationship regardless of injustice to the Palestinians until the atrocities in Gaza, plus the Marmara attack, demanded a reaction. It’s also noteworthy that Fethullah Gulen spoke against the flotilla delegation enacting a humanitarian mission without the approval of Israel.

    The Kurds have a much longer view for their future than gaining more representation in Turkish government. As has been stated, the road from here is very speculative.

    • Carlos June 11, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

      Thank you Laura for the important information

    • Richard Falk June 14, 2015 at 9:01 am #

      My sense is that this was a spontaneous, or nearly so, expression of Erdogan’s tendency to engage in impulsive political behavior
      independent of calculative politics. At the same time, there may have been lurking somewhere the sense that Turkey was being hypocritical
      by persisting with high volume trade with Israel. I am not sure how to assess this apparent tension, but it is, as you know, rather common
      in the behavior of states, including the United States.

  5. Beau Oolayforos June 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    This must be the same Shimon Peres with whom Mordechai Vanunu refuses to be associated, in terms of Nobel Peace Prizes or anything else. The rant about ‘another Iran’ reminds me of Bibi’s constant comparison of Persia to Nazi Germany, making these two politicians sound like typical, ignorant, raving drunkards in any number of bar-rooms. For relief, I gravitate to Uri Avnery’s historical asides & backgrounds, in their nuance, clarity, relevance, etc.

    • Gene Schulman June 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

      I agree with you, Beau, about Uri Avnery. I too gravitate to him. He is the senior journalist in Israel, and is one of the few who can get away with writing the truth. In his 10th decade, he continues to keep his head on his shoulders. I diverge from him on only one subject; his insistence on pushing the two-state solution. He’s been around long enough to realize that there is no chance of that ever being achieved.

      Here is latest:

      • rehmat1 June 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

        I got to agree with American Jewish writer and blogger, Roger Tucker, who says Uri Avnery is a “closet Zionist”.

        Uri Avnery, former member of Jewish terrorist militia, lives in self-denial. In 2013, he penned a lengthy article at Ha’aretz to prove that Israel is NOT an apartheid state. Later, he fired a ‘smoking gun’ claiming Iranian president Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be a “Mossad agent”, Ha, ha, ha ……

      • Gene Schulman June 13, 2015 at 12:06 am #

        Edging toward democracy. An interesting contribution to the Turkey debate:

      • Gene Schulman June 13, 2015 at 1:48 am #

        @ rehmat1

        Thanks for this interesting piece by Roger Tucker. I rather disagree with him (and you), though, that Avnery, Chomsky and Carter are closet Zionists. There seems to be nothing closeted about them; rather they are out in the open. But what is wrong about that? At least they are honest, and have been telling the truth to power. Gilad Atzmon, that pariah of the Israel/Jewish left also considers Chomsky among the liberal sellouts. So what? Personally, I don’t care what labels are attached to them, I can recognize right from wrong. I think all of them, including Atzmon, are right! Tucker is wrong.

  6. rehmat1 June 12, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    Turkey can never become an Islamic Republic of Iran. Erdogan is no Khamenei. The first collaborates with the US-Israel-Saudi ‘Axis of Evil’ – the latter opposes the same ‘Axis of Evil’. Khamenei is the only world leader, Nelson Mandela called MY LEADER.

  7. sudhan June 14, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    Peres is an evil Zionist to the core. His political career for decades has been one of cover-ups, misleading statements and deception.

    • baroukh June 15, 2015 at 12:47 am #

      When Peres is an evil zionist and Arafat is a nice freedom fighter, the scale of values is so inverted that the discussion is impossible.

    • Laurie Knightly June 15, 2015 at 11:51 am #

      Yes, maybe someone could inform us why Peres received those noteworthy awards. For what? In co-signing a Declaration of Principles with the Palestinians, he excluded Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water etc for sometime in the future, but granted culture, education and tourism. What a guy! He was in favor of settlers leaving Gaza – but OK if they moved to the W Bank He ranted against the demographic threat and was against trying to negotiate/encourage UN inspections with Iran. He was vehemently in favor of the Iraq War and insisted that there were WMD’s – Israel had evidence. It’s obvious why the Israelis chose to evict their people from Gaza. Same reason that bantustans would be good targets. He was a terrorist before Israel wiped Palestine from the map.

      And since then?

      • baroukh June 15, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

        It was not a simple declaration of principles for Israel’s side but the beginning of a real peace process giving increasing autonomy and a path to statehood to the palestinian Arab’s side. The problem is this side never wanted a country side by side with Israel. They always wanted and still want the destruction of Israel more than having a country of their own.

        And again, calling Peres a terrorist and Arafat a nice freedom fighter show a bad inversion of the scale of values and prevent any further discussion.

      • Richard Falk June 16, 2015 at 12:54 am #

        You seem to overlook that Rabin was assassinated primarily because he was thought to favor the
        establishment of a Palestinian state, and that Netanyahu, who has been the most consistent
        subsequent leader, was strongly on record as opposed to Oslo and more recently as promising
        the Israeli electorate that there would be no Palestinian state so long as we was Prime Minister.
        It may be that at various times the majority of Israeli citizens wanted some kind of Palestinian
        state or statelet, but not the sustainable leadership.

      • baroukh June 16, 2015 at 1:03 am #

        I don’t overlook anything.
        Oslo was proven a huge mistake for Israel because of the palestinian Arabs who never wanted a state side by side with Israel. Many Israelis were killed in the process while Israel’s leadership tried to negotiate a final peace deal. If no peace was ever achieved, it is because the palestinian Arabs didn’t want to reach such a final peace and always used violence to try to get more and to stop the process.

      • baroukh June 16, 2015 at 1:04 am #

        Israel proved many times that it was ready for painful concessions unlike the palestinian Arabs.

  8. Laurie Knightly June 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    Following the Cuban Crisis of 1962, the negotiating agreement included the dismantling of all US built Jupiter MRBM’s which were deployed in Turkey and Italy against the USSR but were not known to the public.

    Currently, Turkey would prefer that the US not conduct a war against IS from the Incirlik Base located in Adana near the Syrian Border. Turkey has repeated that it should be, instead, an international action against Assad. Washington and Ankara, nevertheless, are discussing both the use of drones and other US aircrafts from Incirlik. Meanwhile, Turkey is being flooded with refugees from Syria. On March 12, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reported that US-led operations were ‘out of the question’ – that a political solution was necessary. Now a summer US offensive is reported to be open to negotiations. US CENTCOM commander Lloyd Austin went to Turkey on March 15, to discuss ‘regional turmoil’. How equitable was that discussion?

    What degree of pressure is being exerted on Turkey? Are the rebel groups in Turkey being offered incentives of a sort?


  1. Richard Falk: Israel’s Former President Underestimates Turkey and Iran - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics - June 15, 2015

    […] By Richard Falk By arrangement with Richard Falk […]

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