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Did Turkey Gain Anything Significant From Its Policy on Gaza?

(1 votes, average 5 from 5)
November 22, 2012 1:47 PM

In my view, Turkey did not gain anything significant from its strong support of Hamas during the recent Gaza crisis. On the contrary, Turkey, regretfully, may have lost some of its stature and prominence to Egypt, which emerged as pivotal in arranging the cease fire between Israel and Hamas and as a major regional player. Secretary of State Clinton praised Egypt's efforts in forging a cease fire between Hamas and Israel and called Egypt a cornerstone of regional peace and stability.

 

By siding completely with Hamas, Turkey lost its status as a broker or mediator in the conflict. In the past, Turkey, by utilizing its good diplomatic relations with Israel, was able to act successfully as a regional broker, including mediating the conflict between Israel and Syria.

 

The contrast was profound between President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton defending Israel's right of self-defense and Prime Minister Erdogan labeling Israel a "terrorist state". It is hard to understand how Turkey, which has been victimized by the relentless terrorism of the PKK, became the enthusiastic ally and supporter of Hamas, which, like the PKK, is on the US State Department list of terrorist organizations.

 

If the purpose of Turkey's policy regarding Gaza was to have Turkey assume the mantle of leadership in the Arab world, it would seem that Egypt, rather than Turkey, may have taken over or even supplanted that role.

 

Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi was a pragmatist. As a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi certainly did not relish having to negotiate a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. However, Egypt needed Washington's help to facilitate its economic recovery and it is no coincidence that Egypt is being granted a $4.8 billion IMF loan with US assistance.

 

In contrast, unfortunately, Turkey was sidelined from having significant influence on the events surrounding Gaza.

 

It would also appear that Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu may also have been a winner of sorts by following President Obama's request that Israel not launch a ground invasion into Gaza. Of course, Netanyahu also had domestic political reasons for not commencing a ground invasion in light of the upcoming elections in Israel.

 

At this juncture, Turkey should reassess its policy towards Israel. Turkey stands to gain much more from good relations with Israel than from antagonism towards Israel and alliances with Hamas. Being pragmatic will help Turkey just as it was beneficial to Egypt, and Turkey will reap great benefits from such pragmatism.

 

Iran used Hamas successfully to deflect attention from the killing of the Syrian people by the Syrian government, which is Iran's client. Now, with the Gaza cease fire, attention will again turn to the Syria crisis which will retake its position as the front and center major issue for Turkey. The Syria debacle also presents existential issues for Turkey in light of Syrian and Iranian support for the PKK, and for Kurdish nationalism. To forge a resolution of the Syria crisis, Turkey will need to work effectively with both Israel and the US. It is worth noting that the Syrians have been shooting at both Turkey and Israel.

 

I would argue that improving relations between Turkey and Israel will benefit Turkey tremendously. Among other things, it will help Turkey deal with the US Congress where Turkey has in the past been vulnerable to lobby pressures (such as the Armenian and Greek lobbies).

 

Turkey will emerge as the regional and global leader it aspires to be based on Turkey's booming economy and strategic significance. It is not too late for Turkey to resume its position as a broker of conflicts in the region. It can do so if its adopts pragmatic approaches to policy decisions, which will greatly benefit Turkey's interests.

 

Mark Meirowitz

Mark Meirowitz is an attorney and political analyst in New York