Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What happened at Davos

At Middle East Strategy at Harvard, Michael Reynolds provides some background to the blow up between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland last week. Reynolds' basic theme is that the blow up was a long time in coming and that the relationship between Israel and Turkey - contrary to what our policymakers here have been trying to tell us - is very much in jeopardy. And so is the relationship between the US and Turkey (Hat Tip: Instapundit).
If Turkish and Israeli policymakers are to salvage anything from Davos, they will have to start by acknowledging the uncomfortable reality that the opinions expressed by the leaders of the two countries were heartfelt and reflect the dominant public sentiments in their respective countries.

Polls demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of Israelis supported Operation Cast Lead. They did so not because they enjoy bombing Palestinians (Erdoğan’s claim at Davos that two former Israeli prime ministers boasted of receiving pleasure when riding into Palestine on tanks notwithstanding), but because they see Hamas as unremittingly hostile and bent on the destruction of their society. Whereas outsiders see Israel as a robust and powerful state and ask why they must resort to massive force so readily, Israelis themselves are acutely conscious of their small country’s vulnerabilities and believe they must demonstrate an unyielding will to defend themselves lest they lose the ability to deter their enemies.

If Erdoğan and other Turks truly aspire to a more influential role for their country in the region, they will have to address directly Hamas’s refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and condemn Hamas’s use of violence against innocents with the same intensity that they have condemned Israel’s. They might remind themselves that whereas the Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK) has never aimed for the destruction of Turkey, Ankara has consistently refused to negotiate with it. Turkey is indeed in a unique position to contribute to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to do so it must act deliberately and responsibly.

For their part, Israeli officials would do well to recognize that, no matter how justified they believed Israel to be, the campaigns in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009 have done tremendous damage to Israel’s image in Turkey. The attempt to achieve absolute deterrence can be counter-productive. While anti-Semitism exists in Turkey and is a concern for the Turkey’s Jewish community, it cannot explain the recent broad declines in Turkish support for Israel.

In remarks addressed to Ankara on February 1, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suggested, “It is possible to fix everything, we have to talk, put things on the table, keep our common interests as well as our differences in mind.” Livni’s proposal is sound, and Ankara would be wise to take it up, for the sake of Turkey’s relationship with Israel but also for the sake of the Palestinians and the rest of the region. A frightened and further isolated Israel is not one that will benefit Turkey or any of Israel’s neighbors.

Finally, given that Turkish-Israeli relations are bound up with bilateral American relations with both states, American officials have little choice but to be involved in repairing those ties. The Bush administration’s aborted project to remake the Middle East started a process of estrangement that inevitably spilled over into Turkish-Israeli relations. The rift in Turkish-Israeli relations, if not repaired soon, may develop into a chasm between America and Turkey.
Read the whole thing.


At 2:54 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

What has changed even in friendly countries is Israel's leaders have been perceived as inflicting pointless destruction upon the Palestinians for nothing. If you have all this power, why don't you use it to destroy Fatah and Hamas? If Israel's leaders can't explain what Israel's military is after to the world, people in countries like Turkey are not going to understand it either. To repair that damage means not giving up Israel's right of self-defense but fighting a war with the will to win and clear political objectives as its aftermath to secure victory. Or scenes like the one in Davos last week will be the least of Israel's problems.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Thermblog said...

I believe that everyone is susceptible to the distortions of the media. This applies to politicians everywhere and even Jews. It makes the situation impossible.


Post a Comment

<< Home