In the last 48 hours or so the world has gone madder than ever. Following the ISIS-inspired terrorist atrocity in Nice, we watched in shock and amazement as an attempted coup in Turkey unfolded (see the timeline at the link) – and collapsed – in front of our eyes, with a resultant death toll of around 300, and thousands of military personnel and judges (!) arrested. Most unusually for a coup, Turkish President Erdogan called on the Turkish people to take to the streets to oppose the coup – via a Face Time phone call!
I won’t go over all the details here; you are sure to have heard or read about the failed coup in your news outlets. I just want to bring some interesting insights to your attention.
Since I’m in Israel, the most obvious angle for me is “is this good for the Jews?”, or more precisely in today’s circumstances, as the JPost puts it, “will the failed coup delay Israel-Turkey normalization?“, particularly since the ink has barely dried on the agreement renewing ties between the two countries:
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Shabbat – something that it rarely does – that read: “Israel respects the democratic process in Turkey and looks forward to the continuation of the reconciliation process between Turkey and Israel.”
And that statement sums up Israel’s position succinctly: this is a domestic Turkish issue, and however the process plays out, Jerusalem’s hope is that the countries can go back to having normal relations – because it is in the interest of both countries to do so.
One of the points of business that is supposed to be moving forward in the coming days is the deal with Israel.
Turkey’s interest in rapprochement with Israel have not changed as a result of the attempted coup: Ankara will still want to improve its diplomatic position in the region; it will still want to cooperate with Israel on security and intelligence matters as much as possible; and it will still want to send supplies to Gaza and build a desalination plant and hospital there.
Israel’s interest in the accord have also not changed: Jerusalem still wants an open dialogue with Ankara on matters of critical interest regarding what is happening in Syria; it still wants to put an end to Turkish efforts to thwart Israeli inroads in international forums, such as NATO; and it still wants to be able to export gas to Europe through Turkey.
None of that has changed. The developments that took place inside Turkey were divorced from Turkey’s foreign policy, and have to do with fundamental domestic Turkish issues.
The question now is what type of Turkey will emerge. But whatever materializes, Israel’s position will remain the same: it wants normalized relations with one of the largest, most significant countries in the region.
The Times of Israel wonders at the timing of the coup – what pushed the putsch precisely now?:
In recent years, critics, foreign governments and Turkish citizens have expressed concerns about a steady decline into authoritarianism under Erdogan.
Although he won much praise in the first few years after becoming prime minister in 2003, since becoming Turkey’s first directly elected president in August 2014 Erdogan has been accused of dictatorial ambitions.
Erdogan wants to change Turkey’s constitution, which was installed in 1980 following the last successful military coup, to adopt an American-style presidential system which would give him greater power.
According to Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, the coup was a result of many factors including the military’s fear of the new system.
He explained that the reasons for the coup included “one of the latest developments [that] has been the bill redesigning the high courts as well as Erdogan’s refusal to be impartial.”
Why did the coup fail?
For Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, this was not a coup by the full army as in previous cases, but undertaken by a clique who themselves held top general Hulusi Akar hostage.
“This was beyond the chain of command — a relatively small group in the army, who even hijacked the military top brass.
“It was not an operation designed by the army and it showed. Without the full support of the army, they lacked the assets and capabilities.”
This time the country put on more of a show of solidarity, with even the three opposition parties in parliament swiftly condemning the attempted putsch.
Political parties do not have “fond memories” of the previous coup d’etats given their bitter experiences under military rulers, said Erdemir.
Ulgen added: “When people realized it did not have backing of the army, it was easier to be against the coup.”
Indeed the sheer odds stacked against the coup spawned conspiracy theories with the hashtag #Darbedegiltiyatro (It’s not a coup it’s theater) trending on Twitter.
Natalie Martin, politics and international relations lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in Britain, said it appeared “almost meant to fail,” something which created suspicions.
“It is entirely possible it’s a false flag coup,” she said.
Consensus or crackdown?
Erdogan, a consummate political tactician, will sense the failed coup has created opportunities to tighten his control over Turkey but faces a critical choice.
“He can build on the fact that all parties got behind him and build an era of consensus or he can use this as an opportunity to consolidate his one-man rule,” said Erdemir.
The conspiracy theory that the coup was a false flag operation is floated by Fethullah Gullen himself, the man that Erdogan accused of orchestrating the attempted overthrow, and now living in exile in America:
A US-based Turkish cleric accused of plotting a coup to overthrow the Ankara government has claimed President Recep Erdogan staged the rebellion himself to justify a major clampdown on opposition forces.
Fethullah Gulen, who was a former key ally of Erdogan has been blamed by the politician of using his contacts to develop a ‘parallel structure’ to overthrow the state.
In a statement, Gulen said he condemned, ‘in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey.’
He said: ‘Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” he said. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.’
Gulen sharply rejected any responsibility: ‘As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.’
In an incredibly rare interview, Gulen said he would never return to Turkey because he would fear being ‘persecuted and harassed’.
Putting the coup into some kind of order for us, here is veteran journalist Tim Marshall on Sky News:
And as a finale to this rather confusing story, here is a selection of tweets which shed light on different aspects and implications of the attempted coup and the surrounding incidents:
Here we have the Divine Intervention angle:
For now, things seem to be settling back down again in Turkey, for better or for worse one cannot say as yet. The number of arrested has risen to over 6,000 as Erdogan considers the death penalty for the putschists, while Israel-Turkey ties are holding as Turkey expressed its appreciation for Israel’s support. (I have to admit that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I suppose it is for the good of the country so I will have to swallow that “appreciation”. It doesn’t mean I have to like it though).