From the Editors of the New York Times: Mr. Erdogan is playing a particularly dangerous game with Israel. There is no question that dealing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel can be frustrating. Turkey downgraded relations after Israel rejected a sound, American-mediated deal to close the book on Israel’s ill-fated assault on a Gaza aid flotilla that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American.
But Mr. Erdogan has dangerously upped the ante — and put the United States, a NATO ally, in a particularly difficult spot — with his threat to send warships into the Mediterranean Sea to escort Turkish shipping. If both sides aren’t careful, things could spiral out of control. At a minimum, Mr. Erdogan is risking his country’s substantial trade with Israel.
President Obama has worked hard to cultivate Mr. Erdogan but hasn’t spared the tough talk in private, including about the Turkish leader’s previous efforts to cozy up to Iran. And Mr. Erdogan has recently agreed to station a radar in Turkey as part of NATO’s American-designed missile defense system to protect the region from Iran. Mr. Obama also privately urged him to cut ties with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Mr. Erdogan has said he no longer believes in Mr. Assad. He now needs to use Turkey’s economic leverage and impose sanctions on Mr. Assad and his cronies.
As the chief of a major Muslim democracy, Mr. Erdogan can legitimately claim a leadership role. He needs to do so responsibly. (photo: Umit Bektas/Reuters)