Why should we bring Israel back to Turkey’s friendship circle?
The U.S. administration had a very tough week defending its decision to cut UNESCO funding following the Palestinian membership vote.
In the most vital foreign affairs issues, the division within the U.S. legislature and its parting with the administration help the executive power to glue its own winning coalition to pursue America’s core national interests.
The U.S.’ relations with Israel unquestionably present an exception to this principal and lack that type of check within U.S. governing bodies. President Barack Obama tried a tough love attitude toward the Netanyahu government to fill that vacuum in his first two years to no avail. As the elections are a year away, Obama joined the bipartisan Congressional pro-Israel stance of giving Israel more than it asked, consequently sinking his credibility and approval rating among Arabs.
Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, plainly summarized Palestinians’ demands at a gala dinner of the American Task Force for Palestine, a young and strong pro-Palestine lobbying group in Washington. He said Palestinians demand “a viable, sovereign state on 22 percent of the land. All we want is freedom from Israel, not freedom to vote in Israel.”
At a time when the Palestinian Authority makes its case to international bodies and gains the favor of the vast majority of other U.N. member states and international public opinion, the Obama administration appears to conform to the “unwritten” rules of the U.S. re-election campaigning season to keep strong Jewish lobbies happy.
At a time when the Middle East is in great need of a mediator to reduce regional strains, the U.S. finds itself more isolated along with Israel and uses its precious diplomatic capital to chase down tiny U.N. members to expand its small coalition against the heightening pro-Palestinian tide.
Washington’s out of control love affair with Israel nowadays is even more risky given the seriousness of a potential Israeli air attack on Iran. The U.S. State Department refused for an entire week to oppose the idea of such an attack, instead using its response to argue for the need of more pressure on Iran to add to the flames.
[HH] Bringing Israel back to friendship circle
However, since its ties with Israel are broken, Turkey, which is considered to be the biggest winner of the Arab Spring so far, appears unable to play any role amid escalation of regional tension. Ankara has been arguing for stability and peace of the region for years, but in this critical juncture, even though it faces potential exposures to repercussions of an Israeli attack ensuring a regional conflict, it is currently secluded from being a factor to make any difference.
According to Congressman Gregory Meeks, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia who visited Turkey twice within the past few weeks, “There are encouraging signs about better relations between Turkey and Israel.” In an interview this week, he said “Officials from both countries told [me] they want to repair ties” following the start of the tragic earthquake dialogue. Turkey’s trade with Israel reached over $2.1 billion so far in 2011, another sign that economic ties have been resilient despite the political fights.
Turkey also rapidly assured Washington on Thursday morning that it will not send any naval ships to accompany flotillas sailing to Gaza, despite a clear promise by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past that it would do so.
On the other hand, Turkey finds itself at odds with Iran much more often than a year ago, and its friendship with Syria all but collapsed, costing Ankara one-and-a-half allies.
Now with the Arab transition, democracy and human rights, values that Turkey, Israel and the U.S. claim to deeply share, need to be defended against Bashar al-Assad with great caution and cooperation.
By bringing Israel back to the friendship circle, Turkey can gain leverage in the peace process, help to build a stronger coalition against al-Assad and may even fill the role of “check” on Israel’s unpredictable behavior.
It is not easy. It requires statesmen to read the quickly changing Middle East landscape and adapt to it to seek the best national interests.