Treading the Tightrope: Israeli-Turkish Relations, 1948–1958
This evaluation was made by Maurice Fisher, Israel’s ambassador to Turkey in 1953, during one of the most fruitful periods in IsraeliTurkish relations.1 Israeli construction companies were laying out Turkey’s airfields, the two countries’ armed forces were working together, bilateral commerce was improving, and talks had commenced on elevating diplomatic representation from legation to embassy rank. Less than a decade and a half later, following the Six-Day War, relations plummeted to an all-time low-‘deteriorating overnight’—and have, for all intents and purposes, remained that way ever since. Fisher certainly understood the fragility of the situation. One might question, however, whether alleged Turkish self-righteousness was really the source of all the difficulties. It appears to us, rather, that certain ambiguities inherent in Turkish society and deriving from Turkey’s historical and geopolitical position would have been just as relevant to the discussion. To begin with, the glorious Ottoman Empire which held dominion over much of the Middle East for 400 years was past history. Furthermore, there had been a slackening in the tremendous impetus to secular modernization given to the country by Mustafa Kemal a half century earlier. These two facts alone would have been sufficient to explain the complexities of Turkey’s national
consciousness and the difficulties it encountered in its relations with Israel.