Politics

Lawmakers Threaten Turkey with Reprisals Over Israel

Turkey is a member of NATO and a long-term ally of the United States.

But you’d never know it to hear the contempt some members of Congress now have for Turkey after Israel intercepted a flotilla bound for Gaza and shot pro-Palestinian, Turkish activists on board.

“As far as I am concerned, Turkey is responsible for the nine deaths on that flotilla. Not Israel,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). “I draw a line that they have just crossed.”

“I think because Turkey is a NATO ally, it’s even more disgraceful,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).

Then a threat, from the third-ranking Republican in the House, GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN).

“There will be a cost if Turkey stays on its current heading,” Pence warned. “Turkey needs to count the cost.”

“The cost” Pence speaks of is a resolution that’s offered almost annually in the House to recognize the Armenian genocide. The non-binding measure notes how the Ottoman Empire (which controlled much of what is now Turkey) massacred the Armenian population in 1915.

Turkey has always opposed the bill. But Pence and others hinted they might consider changing their vote if the legislation surfaces again.

But the reprisals just don’t stop at the House floor.

Berkley noted that she has met with representatives of the Turkish government for years. But she is changing that stance after recent events. The Nevada Democrat says she got a call from a PR firm that’s working with Turkey after the flotilla incident.

“Turkey is on a charm offensive this week,” Berkley said. “They will not be welcome in my office until I see a change in policy.”

Some of the lawmakers fretted about what they viewed as a “turn” from Turkey away from Europe and to focus more on Iran and other nations.

“This is a clear effort to distance Turkey from the west,” said Rep. Pete King (R-NY).

Engel also expressed concern about recent political leanings in the Turkish government.

“It has a strong Islamic bent,” said Engel.

Berkley argued the European Union should stop courting Turkey as a potential member.

“They don’t deserve the recognition and don’t deserve to be part of the EU,” she said.

Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gary Peters (D-MI) have crafted a letter to President Obama urging him to “thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed Hamas leadership against Israel.”

Nearly 130 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed the letter, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

“(Israel) fell into the trap that was set for it by Turkey,” Berkley said.

Turkey has been a prominent ally of the U.S. for decades. It served as an eastern bulwark against Warsaw Pact nations and was home to Jupiter Missiles pointed at the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. used Incirlik Air Base to launch strikes against Iraq during the Gulf War. Turkey also played key roles in operations in Afghanistan after September 11th and during the war against Iraq in 2003.