Turkey's role in mediating the Israeli-Arab conflict has been compromised by its leader's repeated censure of Israel's recent war in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli government official said Monday.
Turkey, a secular country ruled by an Islamic-oriented party, had long been Israel's best friend in the Muslim world. The two countries have wide-ranging military, economic and strategic ties, and last year Ankara hosted months of indirect talks between Israel and Syria after an eight-year breakdown.
But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been especially vocal in his criticism of the Israeli onslaught, and last week, he stormed out of a high-profile world forum where he confronted Israel's president over steep Palestinian civilian casualties.
Erdogan's outbursts thrust Turkey into the role of championing Gaza's Iranian-backed Hamas rulers . In Gaza, Erdogan was hailed as a hero, but Israel doesn't see him in that light.
"He won't mediate anything any more," the government official said. "His stint as mediator between Israel and the Arabs is over, that's for sure. He won't be accepted as
an honest broker by Israel at all."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose Israeli policy. He said no official decision had to be taken, but that Israeli leaders spoke about Erdogan in such a way that made it clear they did not have faith in him as a mediator.
Any Israel discontent is directed at Erdogan personally, and should not be misconstrued as a rupture with Turkey, whose cooperation Israel values, he added.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has been overseeing the talks, had no comment.
Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Erdogan's government mediated four rounds of indirect talks between Syria and Israel this year, but the discussions made no significant headway. Syria suspended the talks after Israel launched its war in Gaza.