Turkey: 'Israel must get US Jews to back down'
- Turkey: 'Israel must get US Jews to back down'
By HERB KEINON
Aug 27, 2007
Turkey expects Israel to "deliver" American Jewish organizations and
ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution characterizing
as genocide the massacre of Armenians during World War I, Turkish
Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
The Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Torkom Manoogian, lays a
wreath in the city, marking the anniversary of the mass killing of
Armenians in Turkey.
Tan cut short a vacation and rushed back to Israel Thursday to deal
with the Anti-Defamation League's reversal last week of its
long-standing position on the issue.
Tan said he understood that Israel's position had not changed, but
"Israel should not let the [US] Jewish community change its position.
This is our expectation and this is highly important, highly important."
Turkey's concern is that last week's decision by ADL national director
Abe Foxman would open the dikes and enable the passage in Congress of
a nonbinding resolution calling Ottoman Turkey's actions against the
"If you want to touch and hurt the hearts of the people in Turkey,
this is the issue," Tan said. "This is the No. 1 issue. You cannot
easily explain to them any change in this."
He said he had requested urgent meetings with Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik,
to impress upon them the importance of this issue to Turkey.
Tan's request for these meetings came after President Shimon Peres
spoke last week with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and
explained that Israel had no intention of changing its policy on this
issue, which is that Turkey and Armenia should resolve their
differences over the matter through dialogue.
In the eyes of the Turkish people, Tan said, his country's strategic
relationship with Israel was not with Israel alone, but with the whole
Jewish world. "They [the Turkish people] cannot make that
differentiation," he said.
Tan said he understood that the American Jewish organizations were
just that - American Jewish organizations. But "we all know how they
work in coordinating their efforts [with Israel]," he added.
Tan opted for an anecdote to illustrate his point, saying former US
secretary of state Henry Kissinger once said he was first an American,
then the secretary of state, and then a Jew. Golda Meir "told
Kissinger: 'You know, Mr. Secretary, we read things from right to
left.' This tells a lot about my case," Tan said.
The Turkish people "are waiting for this effort on the part of Israel
to straighten out, to put this issue in perspective," he said.
While senior Israeli government officials said Sunday that Israel was
trying to explain to Turkey that it did not control the American
Jewish organizations, Tan did not accept that argument.
"On some issues there is no such thing as 'Israel cannot deliver'" he
said, adding that this was one of those issues.
Tan, who served two terms in Washington in the 1990s and worked
closely with American Jewish organizations on this issue, said Israel
had proven its ability to deliver the organizations on this matter in
While voicing no threats as to what would happen if Congress passed a
resolution on this matter, Tan said Turkey - since the development of
a close strategic relationship with Israel in the 1990s - had never
"played with the basics of this whole relationship, with the basic
fundamentals of this relationship." A reversal by the American Jewish
community of its position on this matter, leading to the passage of
the resolution in Congress, would be tantamount to playing with one of
the fundamentals of this strategic relationship, he said.
Meanwhile, visiting Rep. Gary Ackerman (D.-New York) told the Post
that were the resolution to come to the Congress today, "it would
pass, I guess. There is lots of heavy lobbying on both sides. Some
things are better left in the fuzzy area. Some think that not
addressing this for the moment is the better deal, considering the
Nevertheless, Ackerman, a staunch supporter of Israel, said he had
"been signed up on the bill for a long time."
"Those of us who have condemned genocide and ethnic cleansing and
insisted on people accepting responsibility and learning from the
lessons of the Holocaust... well, the Armenian Genocide is something
we've said must be owned up to," he said.
The "complication is in the justice and timing," Ackerman said.
"Turkey is a very important player, juxtaposed in many complicated
issues now. Their government's cooperation is essential in a number of
He said he had been lobbied by Turkish Jews on the matter, who had
asked that the issue be resolved "in a different arena," not in Congress.
On the wider issue of the weight of Congressional resolutions,
Ackerman said: "We're constantly shocked by the weight [attached to]
the resolution. We don't take them [such resolutions] one-tenth as
seriously as other people do. They don't have the force of law. If the
Turkish parliament passed a resolution saying, 'Shame on you for
stealing Manhattan'... we'd laugh it off. But then, of course, it
doesn't rock our political boat."
Tan said that while he understood Congressional resolutions on this
would have no real "teeth," the psychological importance was enormous.
Accepting the resolution, he said, "means you deny the past, it means
you say that my ancestors have done something inconceivable. And the
people who will be encouraged by this will use it to set up a campaign
against Turkey and the Turkish people."
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