This is a demand many may well find odd – but it must happen. Turkey, which has just begun to take a deep breath following serious protests, must evaluate some things anew. This includes a visit to Israel by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Gezi Park protests throughout Turkey have to a large extend ended. We were given a serious test; we experienced domestic disturbance on a scale rare in our history. We have encountered an unexpected hatred of Turkey from some of the most well-known names in the international press. They were angry with the government, but even so, it isn’t right to publicly spread false news.
There were many different reasons, of course: economic interests, deep plans for the Middle East, a fury toward a rising Turkey, hatred against a Muslim country, rage towards a Muslim prime minister, communist groups and so on.
The source of the rage of some was Erdogan’s policy on Israel; they have never been pleased that Erdogan’s administration put the freeze on Israel. The Gezi protests were an opportunity to demonstrate this discontent and some Israelis did not hesitate to articulate the same anger.
In my articles and TV shows, I often express that there are things about Prime Minister Erdogan’s policy on Israel that need to change and be straightened out. Now, even if our relationship with Israel has begun to get better, there are still things that need to be done. However, while these happen, and relations are still somewhat fragile, I think it would be of no use for some people to further fan the flames. Some people really like disaster scenarios; however, in every incident, there are key, positive details that need to be evaluated. If we can recognize these, we can also foresee the positive outcomes and take rational steps.
Following the Israel’s apology, Prime Minister Erdogan’s first agenda item was a visit to the Gaza Strip. This decision certainly raised the eyebrows of Israel and America, with US Secretary of State John Kerry making a very serious mistake by saying, “This cannot be a good decision.”
He perhaps could not realize that such a statement would inspire Erdogan even more.
The Gaza visit, postponed due to the protests in Turkey, has become the main topic again as the protests have ended. Plans were made for the first week of July.
A Turkey enjoying good relations with Israel could have caused great uneasiness for the Palestinian people. So for this reason Erdogan took measures immediately after the apology, and the first thing he said was, “I am going to visit Gaza.” This was another way of saying, “You are still in my heart.”
Israelis generally do not take kindly to such mutual attachment.
However, when it comes to Palestine, it is an advantage for them to have Turkey in place instead of Arab countries. Why? Turkey is a country that does not incorporate radicalism as in some Arab countries do.
Turkey is a mediator country.
This makes her peaceful. She finds solutions to conflicts and disagreements not by threats of war and the employment of radical groups as some Muslim countries do, but by peaceful negotiations.
Israel is a threat to some Arab countries, but for Turkey Israel has always been a friend throughout history. Now when I look at the ratio of Israeli tourists on our Mediterranean shores, I can see that that same friendship has begun to blossom again.
Another important point is this: an Arab country being close with Israel would mean an abstraction from Arab nationalism and it being sidelined. Wasn’t Egypt’s being expelled from the Arab League due to her relations with Israel the most explicit example of this in history? However, Turkey is not such a country: Turkey is the friendly and allied nation of the Western world, the Arab world, Iran, Israel, the Balkans, Africa and even the Far Eastern countries.
No one could ask Turkey, “Why did you become friends with Iran, Israel, Russia or China?” This is because Turkey’s mission is mediating and peacemaking.
This is a logical result of her strategic position. And Turkey has been effectively doing this for the past 10 years.
I think that Israel should welcome Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh saying, “Turkey is an exemplary country for Palestine” and expressing that they should follow Turkey’s footsteps in foreign policy, warmly and favorably. It should not be forgotten that Turkey is at least 10 years ahead in terms of democracy than other Islamic countries and has always maintained a peace-making and conciliatory attitude in its foreign policy.
Therefore it is always in favor of Israel that Palestine considers Turkey as an example rather than another Arab country.
The second important point is that Turkey will be in the Palestinian areas as a peacemaker.
Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas both believe that Erdogan will take on a peace-making and conciliatory task between Hamas and Fatah. Such a peace-making plan is always on behalf of Israel.
After such an agreement, they would be able to prevent a system that is separate from the main government, violates agreements and moves in a reckless and aggressive manner. This would also pave the way for a strong and long-lasting agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Let me also remind people that Turkey’s views about the solution of Israel-Palestine conflict are not different than those of America.
Now let’s get down to the planned Gaza visit. At this stage, Prime Minister Erdogan has a responsibility to Israel along with his responsibility to Palestine.
Now Israel is a country with which Turkey needs to cement a stronger bond and friendship, therefore the Erdogan administration has to take the unrest that the Gaza visit may cause in Israel into account as well.
For this, the best step would be to make an unofficial visit to Israel during this visit. For as long as no official demands come from Israel, Erdogan would not approach an official meeting at the level of prime ministers.
Therefore, it would be better if Erdogan paid a courtesy visit to Israeli lands and held a meeting with a committee of Jewish men of the cloth, including some Muslim scholars, maybe at the airport.
This would break the ice and decrease tension on the Israeli side. If this were not possible, it would be ideal to hold an official meeting at the level of prime ministers as soon as possible.
This is necessary for the goal of “more democratization” that has come to the forefront of the Turkish protests. Turkey is a mediator country. Being a mediator means winning over both sides to comprise a circle of friendship. Now is the time for this.
The writer is a commentator and religious and political analyst on Turkish TV and also a peace activist. She is the executive producer and a host of the Building Bridges Show and writes regularly for Al Ahram Weekly, Asharq al Awsat, Gulf Daily News, and in Turkey for HaberHilal. Her FB page is www.facebook.com/kocaman.aylin