The temptation to achieve fame seems strongest in those who once possessed it and seek to regain it. Look at all the efforts that former movie and music stars make to attract the press and regain their former celebrity status in the absence of any new significant positive accomplishments. If that doesn't convince you, look at Turkey.
Once upon a time, Turkey was the Ottoman Empire, the centre and jewel of the the Muslim world. It held that status for centuries until finally corruption, institutional decay and World War I brought it crashing down leaving it a second world power named after a noisy bird.
In recent years memories of that glory seem to have become prevalent in the upper echelons of Turkish society. As a result what was once a staunchly secular country is now sliding back into Islamist territory and reverting from its attempt to be an advanced Western democracy into a pseudo-theocratic state.
Along with this change the memories of glory have led the leadership to attempt to assert Turkey's perceived role as the leading country in the Muslim world. Unfortunately for the Turkey, there are other contestants for that role. Egypt has, for decades, seen itself as the leading Muslim/Arab power and in the last several years Iran has made no secret of its desire to wear that mantle. How is a country named after a tasty sandwich supposed to complete?
Well by taking advantage of the region's scapegoat for all their problems: Israel.
Has anyone missed Turkey's ongoing obsession with Israel over the last few years? Has anyone really understood why Turkey, a country which has benefited tremendously over the last two decades from its economic and military ties with Israel, has decided to shred all those connections as angrily and noticeably as possible?
No matter what happens in the region one can be sure of one thing: every day the newspaper will contain reports of yet another attack by the Turkish government against Israel. Recently there was the kerfuffle over the Palmer report, the results of a UN investigation into the Freedom Flotilla incident last year which outrageously determined that Israel has a legal right to blockade 'Aza and that Turkey should have done more to stop the flotilla from leaving. Turkey's response was to do everything short of cutting off all ties with Israel, something completely illogical consider they were the guilty party in the report! Now Racep Erdogan, prime minister of the country named after the common term for a fool, is in Egypt looking for support in his anti-Israel efforts and inventing charged of war crimes Israel never actually committed in order to bolster his claims. What can he possibly be thinking?
Here's what I think is going on. As I noted, there are two ways to achieve fame. Acts of greatness are fine but they take time and effort. As folks like Perez Hilton can tell you, achieving fame on the backs of others by relentlessly attacking the already famous is a lot easier.
Turkey could achieve greatness in the Muslim world by building a first class economy, sending aid to its impoverished Muslim brethren, and acting as a source of success and inspiration. It's far easier to attack Israel considering its part of a society where piety is measured by the level of one's Jew-hatred. And that's the road Erdogan has chosen to take.
How should Israel respond? There are a few ways. As I've mentioned before, they could play up an alliance with the Armenians and offer them assistance in making the genocidal slaughter they endured more known to the world. They could develop ties with the Greek half of Cyprus and talk about the island's Hellenist heritage. More could be done to point out that the bird people have no problem slaughtering their Kurds even as they condemn Israel for blockading terrorists. They could even sponsor organizations to explore Constantinople's Chrisian heritage.
But there's one surefire way to properly respond to Turkish hostility. Turkey is constantly goading Israel, much like Gamal Nasser, y"sh, used to do in the 1960's in order to provoke a response and then claim "victim" status. For Nasser this tactic resulted in the Six Day War. Israel is unlikely to repeat that miracle with Turkey so this is not a viable option.
The only way to deal with a bully you can't beat the daylights out of is to deny him the attention he wants. Turkey craves the status within the Islamic world that open enmity with Israel will provide. So far Israel's response has been picture perfect: unremitting expressions of friendship which is exactly what it should be doing. All we should be hearing from the Israeli government is reminders of the strong military, economic and cultural ties that bind the two countries together along with the hope that this friendship and alliance will remain strong and untainted for decades to come.
That should be enough to drive Erdogan into a nervous breakdown!