Israeli public opinion warms toward Turkey, shows survey

Israel and Turkey are located in the same geographic region. (Reuters/File)
Updated 13 November 2019

Israeli public opinion warms toward Turkey, shows survey

  • Accordingly, 68 percent are in favor of improving ties with Turkey, while 10 percent are against, compared to 50 percent in favor and 37 percent against among Israel’s Jewish population

ANKARA: Despite the decline in Turkish-Israeli relations over the past decade, Israeli public opinion is increasingly supportive of an improvement in ties between the two countries.
According to the 2019 Israeli Foreign Policy Index by the Mitvim Institute of Israel, 53 percent of Israelis believe that Israel should try to improve relations with Turkey, compared to 32 percent who disagree.
This points to an almost 10 percent increase compared to the previous year, in which 42 percent of respondents said that Israel should work to improve its relationship with Turkey and 45 percent said it should not.
The respondents were also asked whether Israel should prioritize developing relations with democratic countries or should not take regime type as a criterion; both choices were indicated by 40 percent of participants. It is the seventh edition of the survey.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Nimrod Goren, head of the Mitvim Institute, said the fact that a majority of Israelis stated in the annual poll that they would like it to improve relations with Turkey is in contrast to the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the rhetoric of his main opposition party.
“This is surprising, as the poll findings reveal that on most issues the public accepts the framing provided by the Israeli leadership on foreign policy issues,” he said.
According to Goren, the findings may reflect a “realpolitik” tendency by the Israeli public to seek better relations with countries that project power and influence in the region, even if there are differences in values and policies.
“The finding also reflects the resilience of Israel-Turkey ties. Despite deep political tensions and public grievances, there is still a basic positive attitude toward Turkey as a country, which can be leveraged,” he said.


The respondents were asked whether Israel should prioritize developing relations with democratic countries or should not take regime type as a criterion; both choices were indicated by 40 percent of participants.

Historically, bilateral relations between the two countries have been at their peak when they perceived a common threat or had a common ally — such as in the 1990s over similar concerns about the existential threat from Iran, when Turkey and Israel cooperated in joint military exercises and training of officers. But ties hit a low in May 2010 after a raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters by Israeli Defense Forces commandos, which killed 10 Turkish citizens.
A reconciliation followed after Netanyahu apologized for the incident. Although diplomatic relations were restored in 2016 to the ambassadorial level, Turkey dismissed Israeli’s ambassador after its security forces killed dozens of Palestinian protesters in Gaza in May 2018. But, for Goren, relations between Israel and Turkey should not be viewed only through the prism of relations between their current leaders.
“The business community and civil society also play a role, and a more positive one than the political level. It is noteworthy that among the Israeli public, the largest support for improving ties with Turkey is found among Israel’s Arab citizens,” he said.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Accordingly, 68 percent are in favor of improving ties with Turkey, while 10 percent are against, compared to 50 percent in favor and 37 percent against among Israel’s Jewish population.
Despite the diplomatic stalemate, trade between the two countries exceeded $8 billion in 2018. Turkish Airlines operates 10 daily flights on the Tel Aviv-Istanbul route, with growing demands for tourist destinations in Turkey such as Antalya.
Esra Cuhadar, an expert on conflict resolution and political psychology from Bilkent University in Ankara, said that social and cultural bonds develop independently from bilateral diplomatic relations, and can sometimes trigger grassroots change in perceptions about another country.
“Israel and Turkey are located in the same geographic region, and the people from two countries have various avenues for social contact which decreases inevitably the stereotypes and the bias,” she told Arab News.
Cuhadar, however, said that any improvement in bilateral relations is closely connected with who is ruling in both countries.
To have social rapprochement translated into improving diplomatic channels, it is necessary that the governments in both countries do not use bilateral disagreements to whip up nationalistic sentiment and consolidate its national constituencies.
The picture is less rosy on Turkish side. In a survey conducted last year by Istanbul Bilgi University, “Dimensions of Polarization in Turkey,” 14 percent of Turkish respondents considered Israel as the second largest threat after the US (54.3 percent).

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

  • Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines
  • In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment

CAIRO: Their accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place. In all, more than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks.
It’s resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines; many in Egypt have previously portrayed harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Women’s rights champions hope the authorities’ swift response signals change in how Egyptian society handles accusations of sexual assault.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victim of such crimes.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s officer said the accused man acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties. Several attempts by The Associated Press to contact him or his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most prominent TV host, said in a recent episode that he’d spoken with the young man’s father, who occupies a high-ranking position at a telecommunication company. He said his son dismissed the allegations.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
“We are demanding to be listened to … We are just using what we have, lending our voices to hopefully create some kind of change,” she said.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and El-Sisi’s signature to be made law.
The allegations against the student cover a period of at least three years.
Many of the anonymous accounts appear to be from fellow students at the American International School, one of the country’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo, which school officials said the accused left in 2018. It would appear that he then enrolled at the European Union Business School in Spain, in an online program last year.
In February, he spent three weeks at its Barcelona campus, but the school expelled him after an accusation of online harassment that was subsequently proved false, said Claire Basterfield, a spokesperson for the EUBS. The school has filed a 54-page criminal complaint with the Spanish police, seeking further investigation into his actions.
The head of the American University in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, but that he would not comment on an ongoing case.
According to accusations posted on social media in the past two weeks, the former student would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs. He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them to have sex with him. If they did not, he would threaten to send the pictures to their family.
In some cases, he “attracted their sympathy by claiming he was going through a crisis,” then lured them to his home in an upscale compound where he sexually assaulted them, the prosecutor’s statement alleged.
In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment. During and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, women were frequently harassed, groped — and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted — during mass protests.
This time, there are signs of wider ripples throughout the society. The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest. It’s a departure from the norm for the conservative Muslim majority country where most women wear headscarves.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.
Two rights groups said they fired one employee and suspended another, and opened investigations after allegations of sexual misconduct against them were made public. Authorities also detained a prominent publisher over the weekend after a poet filed a complaint with the Cairo police, accusing him of sexually harassing her, the state-run Al-Ahram reported. The publisher denied the allegations in a Facebook posting. He was released late Sunday on 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($313) in bail, pending an investigation.
The recent cases — reaching into the Egyptian elite — have “refuted all previous arguments and justifications for harassment, from poverty to illiteracy and things like that,” Abuel-Komsan said.