This commentary on the media’s miserable state in Turkey, as parts of it attempts to cover massive amount of corruption allegations, by my colleague, Semih Idiz, for Al-Monitor:
‘The easiest way in Turkey to get out of a difficult political corner, especially if you have Islamist leanings, is to point at Israel as the country orchestrating developments you don’t like. This is not to naively suggest that Israel does not interfere in the affairs of other countries in an effort to arrange things to its advantage. But to see a Jewish or Israeli hand in every Turkish crisis has become a knee-jerk reaction, even in
The massive corruption probe that went public Dec. 17, the fine details of which have been amply covered by Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse, has shaken the Turkish government to the core when crucial local elections are just three months away and presidential elections are due to be held later in the year.
To have four ministers implicated in a bribery scandal involving tens of millions of dollars, a shady Iranian businessman, the head of a government bank, a mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and prominent housing contractors who work closely with the government is a political tsunami for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan is fully aware that he has few options, if any, that will make him look good as this scandal unfolds. The firing of so many police chiefs by his government after news of the corruption probe broke and the appointment of “supplemental” prosecutors to the case already looks bad for him.
Erdogan has decided to brace himself against all criticism and declare war on the “gang” — to use his term — that he claims has lodged itself in the bowels of the state where, together with its international connections, it allegedly plans such operations against the government.
Addressing a crowd in Konya, Central Anatolia, on Dec. 17, shortly after the arrests in connection with the probe started, a visibly angry Erdogan claimed there was a “dirty alliance” against Turkey, saying, “Those who have the power of capital and the media behind them can’t change the direction of this country.”
He said that those who planned this operation were both outside and inside Turkey, adding, “You can guess who they are. This was a process that started with Gezi Park, and now they have taken a new step,” he claimed.
The culprit for Erdogan behind the Gezi Park protests in June, which left him and his government in a negative light internationally, was a curious “interest-rate lobby.” He alleged this lobby was trying to undermine Turkey’s economic and political successes. The pro-government media made sure that this was understood to be an essentially Jewish lobby.
Having taken its cue from Erdogan’s remarks, this portion of the media is doing the same again by using convoluted arguments to bring in the Israeli and Jewish angle. The Star newspaper, for example, claimed Dec. 18 that Turkey’s oil transactions with Iran, for which Halkbank — the government bank implicated in the current probe — was used, was the reason the Mossad had launched the probe.
Given the way the Turkish lira melted against the dollar and the stock market went into heavy turbulence over news of the scandal, it will not be surprising to hear Erdogan revive the “interest-rate lobby” argument or something similar in the coming days. It is also apparent that Erdogan can not risk a normalization of ties with Israel at a time when the pro-government media, with prompting from government circles, is claiming that Israel is involved in a conspiracy against his government.