Experts Concerned Over Turkey-Israel Rift

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ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Many analysts believe the major player in last week's confrontation between Israel and the "freedom flotilla" is Turkey.

One Middle East expert called it "Turkey's debut on the world stage with Iran."

Turkey supported the "freedom flotilla." The main ship - the Mavi Marmara - sailed under the Turkish flag and many on board who attacked Israeli soldiers were Turkish citizens. Later, Turkey severely condemned Israel in the U.N. Security Council. Many analysts see these events as signs that Turkey's position in the Middle East has shifted.

Aaron Klein, a Middle East Expert and author of The Manchurian President, appeared on the June 9 broadcast of the CBN Newschannel's Midday program to share more about Turkey's new role in the Middle East. Click play to watch the interview.

The Bosporous Straights in Istanbul straddle east and west. Europe is on one side and Asia is on the other. It represents the two competing world views Turkey faces -- Islam or a secular society.

Many say the current Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdogan has chosen Islam as its world view.

"A new party came to power in 2002, which has Islamic roots, which has some kind of Islamic identity and as a result of the domestic preferences they want to become closer to the Muslim bloc," said Prof. Efraim Inbar of BESA Center for Strategic Strategic Studies.

"It's a terrible thing to watch when you think of Turkey as a reliable NATO ally for decades," said Elliot Abrams, former deputy national security adviser for the Bush administration.

Abrams said the world is watching a new Turkey emerge.

"Turkey is realigning and you know we hear a lot in the press about 'Gee, even Turkey, Israel's closest Muslim ally', that's the old Turkey," he said. "The new Turkey is carving out a role for itself with Iran and Syria and it says this in so many words."

He added that the weak posture of the Obama administration in the Middle East is influencing events.

"It's leaving a kind of vacuum because the Arabs as well as Israel are wondering, 'Where's their old ally, the U.S.,'" Abrams said. "The Turks are moving in. The Iranians are moving in. And the Arabs that I talk to are wondering is the U.S. going to abandon its commanding position in the Middle East and let secondary powers like that come to the fore."

The shift by Turkey could leave Israel without one its stronger allies in the Middle East -- NATO with more of an enemy than a friend in its ranks and leave the Middle East with a more volatile and uncertain future.  

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