The mid-1990s constituted the darkest period in Turkey’s struggle with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), marked by widespread torture and extrajudicial killings. Turkey was the target of intensive international criticism that even included Turkey’s traditional ally, Washington. When Turkey was told by the Western world that the Kurdish problem could not be solved by military measures, the answer was: “The Turkish state will not give in to terror and won’t sit and negotiate with terrorists.”
The Oslo process that started in the first half of the 1990s between Israelis and Palestinians provided a tremendous relief to Turkey’s isolation, as it opened the doors to a normalization of relations with Israel.
“There is no country other than Israel
that can better understand your suffering from terrorism.” This and similar messages, voiced at the highest level by Israeli officials, came as music to the ears of Turks. The Turkish government, as well as an important section of the public, ignored the implication in the message that Israel
was able to sympathize with Turkey because the Jewish state also perceived itself as victim of terrorism. No one, other than some of the founding fathers of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), dared to say that what Israel
called terrorism could be seen as part of the Palestinian resistance.
The psychological effect was huge on Israel’s side as well, since the Israeli public thought that finally a country in the region - and a Muslim one at that - understood their plight against “Palestinian terrorists.” This was a huge delusion. That’s why the AKP’s contacts with Hamas, as well as the Davos and Mavi Marmara incidents, came as a big shock to Israelis. They thought the Turkish public would understand that what Hamas is to an Israeli is what the PKK
is to a Turk.
Now that Turkey is talking to the PKK
to achieve permanent peace, Israel
- and all the other Western countries that have added Hamas alongside the PKK
in the list of terrorist organizations - have lost their biggest counter argument against Turkey’s call to recognize Hamas as an interlocutor. This, however, is not going to make Hamas’ job any easier. But one thing is for certain, easing the blockade on Gaza will not in itself suffice to satisfy Turkey’s appetite for a pro-active Palestinian policy. As İbrahim Kalın, the advisor to the Turkish prime minister, was saying in a televised interview on Monday, Turkey will continue to actively work for a two state solution based on 1967 borders. For that to be achieved, it will first push for Palestinian unification and consequently for talks to resume for a solution.
Knowing that Israel’s strategy is based on gaining time to maintain the status quo, even if the near impossible task of getting Palestinians unified is achieved, it will still be difficult to start genuine talks for peace. That is, of course, unless there is “shock therapy” that will leave no choice but to negotiate.
Recall how Turkey shocked the world, but above all the Greek
Cypriots, when it said it would no longer be the one to stay away from negotiations and it would sit at the table with all good will, devoid of any pre-conditions or prejudices.
Is it too utopian to think that Turkey convincing Hamas to recognize the existence of Israel
would disarm Israeli arguments not to talk to Hamas? After all, Turkey did not start talks with the PKK’s leader only because of exhaustion from terror and the recognition of the legitimate rights of Kurds, but also because the PKK
no longer talks of independence.