The inevitable solidarity: Turkey, America, Israel, Palestine
This all happened on Monday, April 22: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid his first visit to Turkey after Palestine gained “observer state” status in the United Nations. While here, he reportedly asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to spearhead the national reconciliation process between the two Palestinian rival groups, Hamas and Fatah. This marks a turning point for the Palestinian Authority, which until now had entrusted reconciliation entirely to Egypt. The very same day an Israeli delegation was in Ankara to discuss the terms of Israel’s compensation for the families of the Mavi Marmara flotilla victims of 2010.
Also on that Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Government Spokesman Bülent Arınç criticized Secretary of State John Kerry, who was paying his third visit to Turkey since he assumed office. Kerry had urged Erdoğan to delay his planned Gaza trip on concerns that Gaza-ruling Hamas would gain more international recognition and leverage before possible national reconciliation with Fatah. However, both Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made it clear that the trip would proceed in the aftermath of Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to President Barack Obama on May 16.
The day was not over yet. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his American counterpart Chuck Hagel sent from Tel Aviv the message that in light of the unstable situation in the region, Israel needs the strategic cooperation of its friends more than ever, including Turkey. The same message was also delivered by John Kerry, who underlined the common security threats and promoted strong mutual interests between the U.S., Turkey and Israel.
Following these developments, it was reported this week that the U.S. plans to convene a four way Middle East peace summit in June, in which Obama, Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah will participate. Accordingly, Turkey and Egypt will also attend. No wonder Kerry met with the foreign ministers of both countries in Istanbul last week, as well as Abbas for the sixth time in recent weeks.
All of these are shots from a big picture. The new mapping out of interests in the region urges Washington to broker the Middle Eastern peace process and revive the old triangular relationship with Turkey and Israel. The brokerage of Turkey would make a positive contribution toward the balances in Palestine and, in turn, to the peace process between Israel and Palestine. This would also boost Turkey’s image in the region, which would make it a stronger ally. That would be even more the case if Erdoğan manages to convince Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist and its leader Khaled Mashal agrees to host Abbas along with Erdoğan. Kerry’s comments on Erdoğan’s Gaza trip, even if unintentionally, will also serve this end, since they help present Erdoğan as the only leader in the region who can stand up to the U.S.
However, the road is not smooth. The likelihood of a successful Middle East peace process and a close strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel is questionable. So is the extent of Turkey’s clout over Hamas. Nevertheless, the current regional situation requires a certain degree of collaboration between all of these parties. The only promise is that they all seem to be highly aware of this fact.