The Doha Round Of International Fuming Interests
Turkey, just a relatively short while ago, voted in an Islamist government. Despite which, sound political relations were maintained, something of great importance to Israel, which desperately seeks to improve its relations with Islamic countries. However, in seeking to defend oneself against the incessant onslaught of fanatic jihadists, the reality of offending Muslim sensibilities is always a distinct problem.
Besides which, any government of any Muslim country which becomes too intolerably comfortable with Israel risks punishment from the ordinary citizen on the streets of their towns, cities and backwaters. This is a slow and tender process, one whose slender possibilities and brutal backlashes must be carefully weighed. It's one thing entirely for governments to meet and greet; another for the population weaned on hatred and suspicion to accept unquestioningly.
Israel goes out of its way to ameliorate bad feelings that result from its need to defend itself. Curiously enough, in Israel's blandishments to Turkey, the offer was made to provide the country with unmanned drones; one particular type of which has so recently been used, within Gaza, to the misfortune of Hamas terrorists.
And when Shimon Perez got into a slinging match of accusations and counter-accusations at the conference, to the dismay of the general assembly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was infuriated, claiming his response time was half of that allotted Israel, and as such insulting to the point where he withdrew, fuming he would never return.
The business community in Turkey is not so certain that this is the language nor the journey they themselves wish to take, regardless of the position of their prime minister. And when Mr. Erdogan stormed out of the Davos conference, effectively putting on ice President Shimon Peres's overture toward reconciliation, he was playing a one-man band.
But in perfect pitch with Arab League head Amr Moussa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both of whom took great pains to express their disfavour of Israel's Cast Lead operation. In their debate, Shimon Peres, perhaps looking for greater understanding from Mr. Erdogan, suggested that under similar circumstances Turkey would have reacted exactly the same way.
"Do you understand the meaning of a situation where hundreds of rockets are falling a day on women and children who cannot sleep quietly, who need to sleep in shelters? ...You don't understand, and I am not prepared for lies." That kind of direct offensive obviously took Mr. Erdogan by surprise, but the offensive managed to impress the general audience, which applauded Mr. Peres's passion.
The brevity of time Mr. Erdogan was granted in his response irked him, all the more so when he was silenced by a moderator, having been enabled to eke out a mild condemnation of Israel's actions corresponding to "very wrong" and "not humanitarian" rather more diplomatic than earlier statements made slamming Israel's
“perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction".
"Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents,” he thundered, calling upon Israel's expulsion from the United Nations. He also took formal steps in Turkey to establish a one-minute silence to be observed in schools, in commemoration of the deaths of Palestinian children who died in the Israeli bombings of Gaza, to further bring home his point.
When Mr. Erdogan was cut off by the moderator he said, as he left, "Thank you very much. I don't think I will come back to Davos." Predictably enough, on his return to Turkey, Mr. Erdogan was overwhelmed by thousands of exultantly pleased supporters. At the airport demonstrators bore Turkish and PLO flags, shouting slogans in support of Gazans and their stout defender of the defenceless, Prime Minister Erdogan.
Mr. Erdogan clarified his anger; it was directed against the government of Israel, not its people. "The death of civilians cannot be seen as a simple work accident", he fumed. Israel's ambassador to Ankara has his work cut out for him. Istanbul's anger is understandable, and it will cool when the light of distance and reason returns. The two countries share strategic interests and a long-standing relationship of some considerable value.
And Turkey is, in all conscience, trying to do its part in helping to establish a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Erdogan's first point of entry to establishing that potential, however, should be to convey to Hamas the necessity of laying down its hatred and burning desire to violently remove Israel from the Middle East, along with its almost-equal wish to eradicate Fatah.
It will be interesting to see if his passion and humanity can be mustered to the cause of achieving first, unity, then an attempt to usher in a durable peace. In the process he can avail himself of the considerable efforts exerted by Egypt toward the process, along with the desires of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and now that of the new president of the United States.