Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Turkey’s Difficult Choice in Palestine, Israel

Turkey’s Difficult Choice in Palestine, Israel

By Ramzy Baroud
February 27, 2013

An Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is unmistakably underway, but unlike the heyday of their political alignment of the1990’s, the revamped relationship is likely to be more guarded and will pose a greater challenge to Turkey rather than to Israel.

Israeli media referenced a report by Turkish newspaper Radikal with much interest, regarding secret talks between Turkey and Israel that could yield an Israeli apology for its army’s raid against the Turkish aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was on its way to Gaza in May 2010. The assault resulted in the death of 9 Turkish activists, including a US citizen.

The attack wrought a crisis unseen since the rise of the Turkish-Israeli alliance starting in 1984, followed by a full blown strategic partnership in 1996. But that crisis didn’t necessarily start at the Mavi Marmara deadly attack, or previous Israeli insults of Turkey. Nor did it begin with the Israeli so-called Operation Cast Lead against besieged Gaza in Dec 2008, which resulted in the death and wounding of thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians.

According to the Radikal report (published in Feb 20 and cited by Israeli Haaretz two days later), Israel is willing to meet two of Turkey’s conditions for the resumption of full ties: an apology, and compensation to the families of the victims. “Turkey has also demanded Israel lift the siege,” on Gaza, Haaretz reported, citing Radikal, “but is prepared to drop that demand.”

The reports of secret talks are not new. Similar reports had surfaced of talks in Geneva and Cairo. Turkish-Israeli reconciliation has, at least for a while, been an important item on the US foreign policy agenda in the Middle East, until few months ago when the US elections pushed everything else to the backseat. But despite fiery rhetoric, the signs of a thawing conflict are obvious. Writing in Al-Ahram Weekly on Jan. 16, Galal Nassar attributed that Tel Aviv is working “its idiosyncratic ways to patch up what it regarded as a passing storm cloud in its relations with its friend, and perhaps strategic ally.” Turkey, responded in kind, in its decision “to lift its veto against Israeli participation in non-military activities in NATO.”

Leaked news of a political settlement are not the only headlines related to this topic. There is also the matter of military and economic cooperation, which are even more common. According to FlightGlobal.com, reporting on Feb. 21, the Israeli government has agreed to the delivery of electronic support measures (ESM) equipment “to be installed on the Turkish air force's new Boeing 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft.”

Meanwhile, a large Turkish conglomerate Zorlu Group “has been working in recent months to convince the Israeli government and the Leviathan gas field partners to approve energy exports to Turkey,” TheMarker has learned, as reported in Haaretz on Feb 14.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. If these reports are even partially credible, Turkish-Israeli relations are being carefully, but decidedly repaired. This stands in contrast with declared Turkish foreign policy and the many passionate statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other leading Turkish politicians.

Following a Nov 16 Friday prayer, The New York Times reported from Istanbul that Erdogan denied any talks between his country and Israel regarding resolving a crisis instigated by another Israeli assault on Gaza. He went even further, “We do not have any connections in terms of dialogue with Israel,” he reportedly said. At a parliamentary meeting few days later, he described Israel’s conduct in Gaza as “ethnic cleansing.”

On Nov 20, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Gaza on a solidarity visit, along with an Arab League delegation in an unprecedented show of solidarity. In a strange contrast with the spirit of his mission, however, “Davutoglu suggested to reporters that back-channel discussions had been opened with Israeli authorities,” according to the Times.

But why the contradictions, the apparent Turkish turnabout and if full rapprochement is in fact achieved, will the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) be able to sustain its still successful brand in the Middle East that was largely achieved as a result of its pro-Palestinian policies?

Here, we must get something straight; the strong and growing pro-Palestinian sentiment in Turkey is not the outcome of self-serving political agenda, neither of the AKP nor of any other. The support for Palestinians was most apparent in the June 2011 elections, which was convincingly won by the Erdogan party. “Turks voted on two ‘p's’ -- their pocketbooks and Palestine,” Steven A. Cook wrote in the Atlantic on Jan 28. “Erdogan, who plans to be Turkey's president one day and who believes that the AKP will be dominant for at least another decade, is unlikely to be receptive to a substantial improvement in Ankara's ties with Jerusalem.” If the centrality of Palestine is so essential to Turkish political awareness, then no ambitious politician – for example, Erdogan, Davutoglu or President Abdullah Gül - are likely to gamble with a major departure from their current policies.

That might be entirely true if one discounts the Syria factor, which along with the so-called Arab Spring has complicated Turkey’s regional standing that until two years ago was predicated on reaching out to Iran, Syria, Libya and other Middle Eastern partners. For years prior to the current turmoil, Turkey had cautiously yet cogently adopted a new foreign policy that aimed at balancing out its near total reliance on NATO and the West in general. It mended its ties with its immediate neighbors in the East, including Iran, but polarization created by the Syria civil war has ended Turkey’s balancing act, at least for the time being.

Turkey’s request for the deployment of Patriot missile batteries along its border with Syria, its role in supporting the Syria National Council and its attempt at coaxing various Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria are all proving consistent with old Turkish policies. Indeed, Davutoglu’s zero-problems with neighbors doctrine is but a historical footnote.

The Syrian war has placed Turkey back within a Western camp, although not with the same decisiveness of the past, when Turkey’s generals discounted all other alliances in favor of NATO’s. This is representing an opening for Israel, which with the support of US President Barack Obama’s new administration is likely to translate to some measures of normalization. The degree of that normalization will depend largely on which direction the Syrian civil war is heading and the degree of receptiveness on Turkish streets in seeing Israel once more paraded as Turkey’s strategic partner.

Some commentators suggest that Egypt’s own foreign policy towards Israel – Egypt currently being the main country in the Middle East with the ‘leverage’ of talking to both Israel and the Palestinians – is depriving Turkey from a strong bargaining position within NATO. By having no open contacts with Israel, some suggest Turkey is losing favor with the US and other western partners. Interestingly, Israel’s planned apology, according to Radikal, is supposedly timed with Obama’s visit to Israel in March.

Neither Turkey and Israel, nor the US and NATO are able to sustain the status quo – the rift between Israel and Turkey – for much longer. But returning to an old paradigm, where Turkey is no longer an advocate of Palestinian rights and a champion of Arab and Muslim causes, could prove even more costly. There can be no easy answers, especially as the region seems to be changing partly through unpredictable dynamics.

Erdogan and his party may eventually concoct an answer. This could include Israel and a new set of balances that would allow them access to both East and West. But that answer would no longer be the upright, high-minding politics Erdogan constantly advocates, but instead good old self-serving policies and nothing else.

*************

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Binoy Kampmark: Dysfunctional Hagiography: Australia & Gough Whitlam's Death

Hagiography is the curse of the Australian Labor movement. It is a movement that searches for, and craves, mythical figures and myths. Such a phenomenon might be termed mummification, and detracts from closer examination. More>>

David Swanson: On Killing Trayvons

This Wednesday is a day of action that some are calling a national day of action against police brutality, with others adding 'and mass incarceration,' and I'd like to add 'and war' and make it global rather than national. More>>

Uri Avnery: Israel Ignoring “Tectonic Change” In Public Opinion

If the British parliament had adopted a resolution in favour of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the reaction of our media would have been like this: More>>

ALSO:

| UK MPs blow a “raspberry” at Netanyahu and his serfs

Byron Clark: Fiji Election: Crooks In Suits

On September 17 Fiji held its first election since Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup. With his Fiji First party receiving 59.2% of the vote, Bainimarama will remain in power. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: ‘Islamic State’ Sectarianism Is Not Coincidental

Consider this comical scene described by Peter Van Buren, a former US diplomat, who was deployed to Iraq on a 12-month assignment in 2009-10: Van Buren led two Department of State teams assigned with the abstract mission of the ‘reconstruction’ of ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Case For Using Air Power Against The Islamic State

There is an Alice Through the Looking Glass quality to the current response to the Islamic State. Everything about it seems inside out. Many people who would normally oppose US air strikes in other countries have reluctantly endorsed the bombing of IS positions in Iraq and Syria – not because they think air power alone will defeat IS (clearly it won’t) but because it will slow it down, and impede its ability to function. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news