Columnist sees Gülen ‘conspiracy’ in ruling against Israel

Date posted: May 29, 2014


The government has refrained to date from a clear statement on how it plans to respond to a court ruling this week to issue arrest warrants for top Israeli generals for a bloody raid on a Turkish aid ship in 2010, which, inauspiciously, came as Turkey and Israel were reportedly finalizing a deal to restore their diplomatic relations ruined by the same raid.

But a piece by a pro-government columnist published on Wednesday may be offering clues about the government’s strategy: to bring in elements of conspiracy by followers of the Hizmet movement, which, ironically, is also accused by supporters of the government of being an Israeli pawn.

In a rather mind-boggling article in English published on the prestigious Al-Monitor website, columnist Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı cited unnamed sources close to President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as agreeing that the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and is claimed to have followers within the judiciary, concocted Monday’s court ruling to sabotage the Turkish-Israeli normalization process.

Kütahyalı, who writes for government mouthpiece the Sabah daily, reported that his sources at the Presidency and the Prime Ministry were all “startled” by the court decision, which he called “scandalous” and “outlandish.”

Government officials have said they would await the reasoned verdict of the court before commenting on the arrest warrants for the Israeli generals. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the other hand, has gone a step further and appeared to indicate that the normalization process will not be affected by the court ruling, saying they are separate matters.

The İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court’s ruling on Monday targets former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi for their role in the May 31, 2010 raid on the ship Mavi Marmara. The death toll from the raid rose to 10 over the weekend following the death of a victim who had been in a coma for four years. Turkish authorities have also reportedly asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for the Israeli military officials.

Turkey and Israel have been in talks to restore their diplomatic ties since Israel offered an apology for the raid two years ago in a deal brokered by US President Barack Obama. Turkish and Israeli officials have confirmed reports that they were close to finalizing a deal under which the two countries would send ambassadors in return for Israel paying compensation to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims and allowing the transfer of aid materials by Turkey into the blockaded Gaza Strip to help its Palestinian population.

But the process has been proving to be a PR challenge at home for the government, which has banked on its anti-Israeli rhetoric for support both in Turkey and in the Arab world since Erdoğan’s well-known Davos walkout following an exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Families of the victims as well as the Turkish charity that organized the Mavi Marmara’s trip, the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), have said they do not want to give up on their quest for punishment for the Israeli officials responsible for the deaths.

Just days before the court ruling, the İHH again said that it will not drop charges against the Israeli commanders as part of Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, even if the deal requires so.

Turkish sources have indicated that the deal will be in the form of an international agreement that will be ratified in Parliament and will override domestic laws, and hence court rulings, in the event of a conflict with them. “We are warning the authorities against this clear violation of global law principles,” an İHH lawyer was quoted as saying.

İHH Chairman Bülent Yıldırım also appeared to be suspicious about arguments pointing a finger at the Gülen movement for the court ruling. He said the İHH had in fact suspected the involvement of the “parallel structure,” a term coined by Erdoğan to refer to the alleged members of the movement within the state bureaucracy and judiciary, when the court case was prolonged.

Referring to the reassignment and removal of thousands of officials in the judiciary and state institutions over the past months on suspicion that they are members of the movement, he added: “The parallel structure has been eliminated to a certain extent. We’ll see if there is any other deep [structure] involved.”

Double talk

Presenting the Gülen movement as the architect of the court ruling may help the government deal with a possible backlash from families, the İHH — an outspoken supporter of the government’s Middle East policies — and a wider segment of its own voters who want Israeli officials to pay for the Mavi Marmara raid, in case a reconciliation deal with Israel goes into effect. Internationally, it may help the government deal with Israeli and Western criticism that it is not committed to reconciliation with Israel despite officially vowing that it is.

But the same Gülen movement that Kütahyalı accuses of sabotaging reconciliation with Israel is subject to accusations by Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials and pro-Erdoğan media that it is operating as an agent of Israel to undermine Turkey’s economic and international achievements under the AK Party government.

AK Party deputy Salih Kapusuz has recently described the Hizmet movement, or the “parallel gang,” as he prefers to call it, on his Twitter account as an un-national structure that has its headquarters within the US neocon circles and the Israeli lobby operating to raise obstacles before Turkey’s growth.

Most recently, a Thursday story by the Yeni Şafak daily, another government mouthpiece, alleged that an illegal wiretapping scheme by the “parallel gang” involved illegal tapping of phone conversations of senior defense officials and appeared to have been connected with Israel, which it said has been wary of Turkish efforts to boost its national defense capabilities.

Kütahyalı also recognized the portrayal of the Hizmet movement by the government to be in some sort of collaboration with Israel in his article, but argued that the Gülenists and other anti-government circles “have gone bonkers enough to ask for a Turkey-Israel war just to topple Erdoğan” because obsession with the prime minister has reached such a point.

Erdoğan, Kütahyalı wrote, brands members of the Gülen movement as the “hatchet men of imperialism” and this strategy has been “very successful with the Turkish people, who equated Gülenists with Israel.”

Source: Todays Zaman , May 29, 2014

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