Monday, November 29, 2010

Can Ankara Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute?

Might Turkish security guarantees resolve the Palestinian-Israeli dispute?

Israeli media claim Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, not just a politician but a far-sighted academic, is promoting the idea of Turkey as guarantor of Israeli-Palestinian peace. This is a brilliant idea, whether in fact being publicly promoted by Davutoglu or not, that would cut the double Gordian knot of Israeli-Palestinian hostility and Israeli-Iranian hostility by interposing a layer of insulation. All sides would then have the option of avoiding overreaction and childish polemic simply by saying, “Please excuse me momentarily while I consult with Ankara.” More, Ankara might just have the ability to do what U.N. peacekeepers face-to-face with Israel cannot do: actually enforce the peace.

Whatever Davutoglu may have said and whether he was speaking as Foreign Minister or as an academic thinking over a longer time-scale, the fact remains that the question of how an independent Palestine could ever conceivably protect itself from Israeli aggression is the (invisible in the U.S.) elephant in the room of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Aside from a domestic political revolution in Israel that would see the rise to power of a leftist Israeli party dedicated to equality and democracy rather than Zionism and expansion and the garrison state, one rather appealing solution would be to make Turkey the protector, not of the whole Levant, but at least of Lebanon and an independent Palestine. Turkey under a moderate Islamist and seriously democratizing regime is that rarest of Mideast species: an actor able to speak to all sides from (at least relatively) the moral high ground.

It staggers the imagination to conceive of how Turkey could be the “protector” of regional nuclear hegemon Israel. Since Israel is the main source of regional aggression, the only colonial state in the region (now that Syria has vacated Lebanon), and by far the most militarily powerful regional actor, the very idea at present makes no sense, though in theory one could of course imagine a deal in which Iran and Israel both received guarantees. (Such a guarantee would be complicated, since Iran under any regime will surely continue to desire not only security but also a significantly more prominent role in regional affairs and since that is precisely what the Zionist elite currently running Israel most adamantly opposes.) Be that as it may, the more realistic idea of a Turkish security guarantee for Israel’s weak neighbors Lebanon and Palestine is a timely one that deserves careful consideration.

As for Lebanon, Erdogan made it clear during his trip to Lebanon this week that Ankara is already thinking about Lebanese security, noting that Turkey would not remain on the sidelines in the event of yet another Israeli invasion.

Among the many questions that perhaps few interested parties have seriously considered are:  

  1. Does Ankara have the military capability to protect Lebanon from an Israeli attack?
  2.  Does Erdogan have a reasonable shot at unifying Turkish society and his military behind a policy of protecting Lebanon and Palestine?
  3.  Could Erdogan persuade Hamas--as the recognized, legally elected (again) government of Palestine--not to engage in violence in return for a reliable Turkish military cordon sanitaire against Israeli interference?
  4.  Is there any Israeli political faction that could run an election campaign with the policy of welcoming a Turkish guarantee of the inviolability of the Palestinian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli borders? 
  5. Can Washington bring itself to accept the hand of friendship from moderate political Islam?

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