What in heaven’s name is going on with Turkey? A country that, since the ascension of a moderate Islamist party to power, has been a bulwark for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Turkey’s IHH humanitarian group sent the Mavi Marmara to Gaza a year ago and lost nine Turkish citizens at the hands of IDF navy commandos. Prime Minister Erdogan famously tussled with Shimon Peres at Davos just after Operation Cast Lead and gave the octogenarian leader a tongue-lashing. The Turkish leader has been an international leader on behalf of Palestinian rights.
He’s also led the way regarding negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, and mediated peace talks between Syria and Israel until Ehud Olmert decided a military adventure in Gaza was more pressing than peace with Syria.
All of a sudden Turkey’s Islamist lion has turned into a lamb. IHH cancelled its participation in the Gaza flotilla leaving hundreds of thousands of international supporters of this effort high and dry. Now there are murmurings about a grand bargain involving the Israelis, Turks and U.S. that would resolve outstanding Turkish grievances regarding the Mavi Marmara massacre. In the past, Avigdor Lieberman has torpedoed an agreement that would’ve required an Israeli apology. It remains to be seen whether that is in the offing if a deal is sealed.
The U.S. has offered Turkey a major role in future peace negotiations with a conference offered as a prize for its acquiescence. Haaretz reports “secret” negotiations between Israel and Turkey to iron out these matters. But note it was Israel that leaked the existence of the talks since it stands to gain more from their success than Turkey. Apparently as part of this orchestrated “warming,” Bibi has just released a fawning statement calling for Turkey to revert to its historic warm relations with Israel: an era it should be said that involved intensive military collaboration between the IDF and Turkey’s right-wing nationalist military. Are these the halcyon days to which Erdogan wants to return? When Israel crossed Turkish airspace to bomb an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor? When the IDF aided in crushing the Kurdish insurgency?
For the life of me I just don’t see what Turkey gets out of all this. You’d think that for a such a major shift in policy involving warming relations with an Israeli state increasingly a pariah among nations, that Erdogan would’ve wrested some significant concession from Israel. Something beyond an apology for last year’s killings and compensation to victims families.
You’d think Erdogan would’ve wrested an Israeli agreement say, to allow a UN vote on Palestinian statehood, or an Israeli agreement to return to 1967 borders. Or perhaps an Israeli agreement not to attack Iran. Now, that would be an achievement worth caving on the Gaza flotilla.
As far as I’m concerned, Bibi is pretty much a stubborn fool and Obama a wide-eyed novice when it comes to these issues. But Erdogan seems about as shrewd as they come. Not perfect of course, as no leader is. But he appears someone who has realpolitik in his bones. This, on the other hand, appears to me to be a sweetheart deal that gives Israel much and Turkey relatively little, considering what the latter is forced to give up. May I be proven wrong in this.
As an addendum, when the Turkish ruling party won a resounding victory in recent national elections, Bibi praised the nation’s “free and democratic” society. This should, if the Israeli premier was half-way truthful, rule out any future references to that Israeli trademarked slogan–the “only democracy in the Middle East.” Fat chance.
- Israel and Turkey holding secret direct talks to mend diplomatic rift (warincontext.org)