Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Turkey & Gaza

Protests have drawn thousands throughout Turkey
PHOTO from Getty Images

Prime Minister Erdoğan delivered his most scathing remarks against Israel yesterday in a move that is likely to compromise Turkey's ability to negotiate a peace agreement between Syria and Israel -- not to mention turn the heads of many Washington policymakers. Erdoğan told "Ehud Barak and (Tzipi) Livni to forget about the elections, because history will judge them for the black stain they are leaving on humanity." The remarks caught criticism in an editorial by the Jerusalem Post, in which the Israeli right paper accuses Turkey of choosing sides, finding no fault with Hamas, de-stablizing the region in its efforts to represent Hamas using its newly acquired seat at the Security Council, and lacking little moral authority on the issue given its treatment of the PKK and the Kurdish minority.

As Yigal Schleifer writes, Turkey would do well to re-assess the limits of its soft power in the region. Nonetheless, the AKP goverment seems to be doing precisely the opposite, suggesting that it is well-positioned to mediate between Hamas and Israel as the circumstances arise, filling Egypt's role now that Mubarak is thoroughly discredited with the Hamas leadership. At question is the future of Turkish diplomatic clout in the region, and the prime minister's actions as they have and will occur are vital to keeping Turkey's diplomatic ambitions alive. Will we see Turkey representing Hamas' concerns at the Security Council? Will Erdoğan, who is sure to be met with a firestorm of criticism in Israel and the United States, alter his comments? In what condition will the Gaza conflict leave Turkey's soft power to conduct peace negotiations between Syria and Israel? With massive protests occurring throughout Turkey, is it even domestically possible for Turkey to have anything to do with Israel?

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