Breaking international news has just announced that a military coup has taken place in Turkey to overthrow the democratically-elected president Erdogan. Details of the coup have not yet been revealed.
There has always been conflict between Erdogan and the Turkish military. Erdogan is an Islamist while the military is secularist. Erdogan’s policies have been highly un-democratic, imprisoning critics of his government, shutting down the free press, and punishing those who speak publicly condemning his regime.
The Turkish army has been a strong supporter of democratic government, free speech and free press. This has been so since Kemal Ataturk established the first Turkish republic after the fall of the Ottoman empire.
The army disagrees with Erdogan’s approach to ISIS, Hamas and other Islamic terror groups and sees the continuing Erdogan government as a dangerous threat to Turkey.
As I write these lines, the Turkish military has announced that it has taken control of the government and has imposed martial law on the country. This may indeed be a hopeful sign that there will be a new Turkey, faithful to freedom and democracy.
The word democracy has different meanings to different people. In Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood member, Morsi, was democratically elected as President of Egypt only to be overthrown by army General al-Sissi who became the new Egyptian president. He respects democracy as we understand it. And relations with Egypt have been impressive to us under his administration.
So too, Erdogan was elected president of Turkey in a democratic election. So too was Hitler elected in a free election as Chancellor of the German Reich. And North Korea calls itself the Democratic government of the country.
Democracy can be defined by those who admire or despise it.
Recently, Turkey and Israel have signed a reconciliation pact. One hopes that the Turkish military will respect it.
For Americans, there is a very serious problem. Both Turkey and the USA are members of NATO. America has provided Turkey with tanks, aircraft, guns, ammunition and weapons for destruction. What will happen to those weapons now in the control of the Turkish military? Will they be used to protect the Turkish nation or will they be used against the Turkish people and the Kurds? Will they be used to help the Assad regime in Syria or will they be used to help the rebellious forces? These questions remain unanswered.
Today there are one million foreign tourists in Turkey. Hopefully the sudden military coup will not dampen their visit.
For us in Israel, this coup presents us with immensely serious problems. Will a new Turkish regime keep its word with regard to diplomatic and commercial relations with us?
It is too early to forecast any prophesies. One can only hope that the new Turkey will be free, truly democratic, and friendly to Israel.