The Arab-Israeli exchange rate (part II)
Bored by the repeated mention by my taxi driver of the name Gilad Shalit about whom he knew everything, including his private life, I asked him if the names Abdullah Söpçeler or Zihni Koç rang a bell or meant anything to him. “Are they Palestinian prisoners?” he asked me. I did not say a word. I did not feel like telling him that Abdullah and Zihni were Turkish soldiers kidnapped by the PKK two months ago.
Anyone who is mystified by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s great quotes, like me, should remember well this one from earlier this year: “Calling [Hamas] terrorists would be disrespectful to the will of the Palestinian people.” I asked, at that time, “Which man of peace, unless from Jihad, would ally with an organization whose charter declares members to be Muslims who ‘fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors’?”
I am not going to question the Turkish-Kurdish exchange rate and ask how many, if any, Kurdish political activists with deep loyalty to the PKK the Turkish government would have released in exchange for one captured Turkish soldier.
I know Messrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are not convinced that Hamas is a terrorist organization even though Hamas’ charter vows to annihilate a legitimate state – Israel. I know they did not link Hamas with terrorism when their darling Khaled Mashaal described the 10,000 rockets Hamas sent to Israeli territory as “modest, homemade rockets,” one of which in 2004 killed 4-year-old Afik Zahavi.
I know Messrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu simply shrugged off the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone report, which stated: “[Hamas’s activities] constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population. These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity ... The rocket and mortar attacks launched by armed Palestinian groups have caused terror.”
Forget all of that. Not even the Hamas statement over the killing of Osama bin Laden tainted Mr. Erdoğan’s love for Hamas: “Hamas condemns the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior, Osama bin Laden” (whose skilful operatives had once bombed Istanbul, killing mostly Muslim Turks). Last year, in this column, I wrote: “When combined into one compact idea, the picture is telling us that ... The Turkish government views as a great friend, an entity [Hamas], which views the boss of Istanbul’s bombers as a holy warrior.” Bizarre? Maybe.
But since the Turkish government reportedly (and benevolently) was engaged in the negotiations for, presumably, the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, should the prime minister not have asked himself a few reasonable questions?
What was the soldier of a legitimate state doing in the hands of a legitimate political party? Since when does the kidnapping of foreign soldiers mean respecting the political will of other nations? Are the Palestinians a terrorist nation since their national will favors an organization that kidnaps soldiers of a foreign army? Do legitimate political parties keep foreign soldiers in captivity? Would, say, Mr. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) kidnap a Cypriot soldier? Can anyone imagine the AKP headquarters in Ankara housing a foreign national as hostage in a dungeon? How does Mr. Erdoğan really justify that Hamas is not a terrorist entity but a political party like his own when it trades a foreign soldier for terror convicts?
Israelis may or may not be so wholeheartedly grateful to Messrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu for their role in the “Shalit for 1,027 terror convicts” deal. In reality, for Ankara, this was an opportunity not to be missed. Neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister is a blood thirsty murderer who would feel a sadistic pleasure from the death of an Israeli soldier. So, Mr. Shalit’s release is “zero-cost” for Ankara. It is even a plus, an opportunity to showcase their “humanity.” On the other hand, the release of the 1,027 “comrades” is something genuine to celebrate!