A survey conducted recently in Turkey found that nearly half that country’s citizens see Israel as the biggest security threat, followed by the United States, and only then Syria.
The daily Today’s Zaman newspaper last week reported the results of the poll, which was conducted by Istanbul’s Kadir Has University among 1,000 respondents.
Asked which country they think poses the biggest threat to Turkey, 42.6 percent of participants chose Israel, while 35.5% said the US. Just 22.1% named Syria, which shares a border with Turkey and has been ravaged by four-year civil war, as the biggest threat to their country. Turkey has in the past fired at Syrian positions across the border after wayward shells from the civil war landed in its territory.
A similar poll in 2013 found 41% saw the United States as Turkey’s biggest threat, while 37.1% named Israel.
Asked about the Islamic State group, which has carved out large swaths of Iraq and Syria for its self-declared caliphate, 85% said they considered the jihadist organization as a terrorist group and 65.4% saw it as a threat to Turkey. Twenty-four point one percent said IS was not a threat to Turkey and 10.1% were undecided.
Israel and Turkey have been at loggerheads over a 2010 incident that saw the Turkish Mavi Marmara ferry boarded by Israeli commandos as it attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the ensuing melee, after the Israeli soldiers were attacked with iron bars and wooden bats, troops opened fire and nine Turkish activists were killed; 10 Israeli soldiers were injured.
The incident triggered a crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey, which were already strained since Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in 2008-2009. Israel issued a formal apology to Turkey in March 2013 but disagreements persist over Ankara’s demand that Israel pay damages to families of the deceased and to the wounded.
Ties between the two countries have yet to recover, with Turkish officials often unleashing scathing rebukes of Israel.
In January Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, of killing Palestinian children and radicalizing the Muslim world.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is known for his angry outbursts at the Jewish state, declaring in July 2014 that Israel had “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” Turkey under his rule has been a consistent supporter of Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.