Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lost at Sea, Pt. II

I have a piece up on the Christian Science Monitor's website looking at the fallout from Monday's Gaza flotilla incident and what it says about the future of Turkish-Israeli relations and of Turkish foreign policy. From my article:
Ankara’s harsh response to Israel’s action is the strongest signal yet that Turkey may be abandoning its efforts to become a regional mediator between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, favoring instead a more pointed foreign policy. The shift will allow it to capitalize on Muslim frustration with Israel, giving an added boost to its already rising profile in the Middle East.

“This mediation thing is over. Turkey now is one of the sides in the Middle East conflict. It is quite clearly opposed to Israel,” says Sami Kohen, a veteran Turkish political analyst and columnist who writes for the Milliyet daily. “This event is almost a climax in this shift.”

“Turkey’s hand in the region is strengthened now,” Mr. Kohen adds. “There is now more reason for Turkey to take a more active part in the events of the Middle East, since it has suffered personally from this attack. Now it can justify its anti-Israeli positions, which get a good deal of sympathy in the Arab and Islamic world.”

Ankara's shift complicates a historic alliance between Turkey and the US, which has become more important in recent years. An air base in southern Turkey is one of the most important transit bases for ferrying troops and supplies to Afghanistan. Turkish mediation, meanwhile, had gotten Israel and Syria back to the peace table until that effort was aborted when the Gaza war broke out.

Increased tension between Turkey and Israel clouds one of the few sunny spots the US had previously enjoyed in the region.

The deterioration in the once-close relationship between Turkey and Israel has been mirrored by an equally precipitous rise in Turkey’s visibility and involvement in the Middle East, an area that it had kept at arm’s length for decades because of historical enmity and mutual suspicion.

After coming to power in 2002, the government of the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) worked to forge close relations with neighbors such as Syria and Iran.

“It’s [an AKP] project whose goal is to set up Turkey as an international player, on the one hand, and to get recognition of Turkey as a moderate, market-friendly leader in the Muslim world and be treated as such in international bodies,” says Anat Lapidot-Firilla, senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

“The significance of this is that we are going to see more and more Turkish pressure to be involved in regional affairs and global affairs. They are raising the level of their requests and their global aspirations.”

Until recently, Turkey’s growing involvement in the Middle East included a desire to parlay its good relations with both Israel and the Arab states into a role as a regional mediator. Ankara, for example, hosted Israel and Syria for a round of (ultimately failed) secret peace talks in 2008.

But for now, analysts say, Turkey appears to have abandoned its mediation efforts in the region in return for a more pronounced leadership role in the Middle East.

“For the time being, I don’t see any kind of opening for the peace process. So if there isn’t any peace process, there isn’t any need for the good offices of a mediator,” says Gencer Ozcan, an expert on Turkey-Israel relations at Istanbul’s Bilgi University.
You can read the full article here.

Clearly, this rupture between Turkey and Israel has been long coming. As I've written before, Turkey has, for the last few years, pegged its relations with Israel to what happens on the Palestinian front (or, more specifically, on the Gaza front). Although technically not a bilateral issue between the two countries, the situation in Gaza has, in many ways, become the issue that defines the current relations between Israel and Turkey.

In that sense, although the Gaza aid flotilla was organized by a Turkish NGO (the Islamist IHH) and was not sponsored by the Turkish government, it acted as a proxy for Turkish policy. Also, because the Turkish government had elevated the cause of the Gazans to a level of such political importance, there was little room for it to work out a diplomatic solution to the impending flotilla crisis, lest it be accused by its opposition (particularly on the Islamic right) of giving up on the Gazans.

The tragic blunders committed by Israel in this incident are too numerous to count. On the other hand, for a country that has been an increasingly vocal proponent of the power of diplomacy in defusing regional tensions, Turkey, in this case, seemed more than willing to let the tensions rise higher.


Unknown said...

I would one more thing to your article: this is the end of the Secular state of Turkey.
Here some info about IHH:

Unknown said...

Is Democratic Turkey on the way to becoming an Islamic republic?

Turning a democracy into dictatorship – a to do list

1.Enforce the national feelings of the nation; make use of the nation’s history, religion, culture and all that increases the nation’ self esteem
2.Find a common threat or a common enemy, threatening the morality or the dignity or the well being of the nation.
3.Position yourself as the strong leader who is guarding the interests and the dignity of the nation, that is currently at peril
4.Prepare the ground for the case where controlled must be seized for the benefit of the nation. This can be done by inserting people in key positions (e.g. the army, General Security Service, police force, judiciary…) or changing pivotal rules hindering the ability to protect the democracy
5.Create a big incident, floating the danger and stand boldly against it, while protecting the nation’s pride, honor and sacred interests. At the time of elections, you will be granted power and the aims to proceed with the transformation.

For example, at 1933 Nazi went into power establishing the Nazi Germany.
1.The Nazi political platform emphasized the desire to resurrect the mighty historical past of the medieval holy roman empire, and regain the trampled German dignity from the end of WWI
2.The common enemy was the Jewish people and its devious plan to rule the world, especially the goal being Germany’s national subversion
3.The Nazis promised strong, authoritarian government in lieu of effete parliamentary republicanism, restored national pride (principally by repudiating the Versailles Treaty), and racial cleansing, all in name of national unity and solidarity, rather than the partisan divisions of democracy, and the social class divisiveness of Marxism.
4.this transition has taken several years (1933-1939), but at the end, all of Germany, starting from key positions until the regular people, were at the control of the party
5.The Reichstag fire was an arson attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin on 27 February 1933 just prior to the elections. The event is seen as pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany. The fire was used as evidence by the Nazis that the Communists were beginning a plot against the German government

Another, more recent example, is the Islamic revolution in Iran, where religion is the base of the revolution.

One must learn history in order not to follow it again…