On My Mind: Palestine’s Turkish agent

Turkey’s posturing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become so ardent that 'The New York Times,' in a recent editorial mistakenly called Turkey an Arab country.

Mashaal and Erdogan meet in Ankara  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mashaal and Erdogan meet in Ankara 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, embraced Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas immediately after the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state. A week earlier Davutoglu stood with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza. Engaging both heads of the rival Palestinian factions – Hamas and the Fatah-led PA – is very rare. The two won’t even meet each other as they compete for world support.
Turkey, however, is unlikely to bring Palestinian reconciliation.
Arab countries have tried. Ultimately, Palestinian leaders will settle their differences only if they truly want to. Similarly, peace with Israel will come only when Palestinian leaders decide on direct talks with Israel, not as long as they continue to rely on regional powers that hinder any progress.
Davutoglu, projecting Turkey as the Palestinians’ best regional ally, delivered a passionate rewriting of history in his UN speech just before the November 29 vote. Referring to “the struggle of the Palestinian people in the past 65 years,” Turkey’s foreign minister adopted the Abbas narrative that UN approval of a Palestinian Arab state in 1947 has not been fulfilled.
Others speaking before and after the vote echoed that theme. Of course, no context was offered. The historical fact is that the Arab world resoundingly rejected the UN General Assembly of November 29, 1947, that approved a partition plan to establish an Arab state and a Jewish state on the territory formerly administered by Great Britain.
The failure of UN member states to join Israel in refuting this historical revisionism will only encourage uninformed citizens worldwide to accept Davutoglu’s words as fact. Implying that Israel has stood in the way of Palestinian statehood since 1947 is libelous and dangerous.
Such blatant revision of a major event in UN history will no doubt be recycled repeatedly in the foreseeable future.
Trying to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians, Turkey’s foreign minister went even further.
“No one can deny the suffering of the Palestinians since the First World War until today,” said Davutoglu, implying that the Balfour Declaration of 1917, 30 years before the UN partition plan, was the beginning of Palestinian suffering.
Turkey’s posturing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become so ardent that The New York Times, in a recent editorial, mistakenly called Turkey an Arab country.
No wonder Abbas, standing behind the Palestine delegation table in the General Assembly hall, was ecstatic as he hugged Davutoglu, after 138 countries had adopted the measure, with only nine opposed and another 41 abstaining.
Other nations that endorsed the Palestinian gambit explained before, during and after the vote that they did so to express support for the two-state solution.
Indeed, Abbas had pledged before the vote that if successful he would return to the peace table with Israel.
Those nations that voted yes, especially EU countries that provide substantial financial support to the PA, must now follow up and press Abbas to fulfill his own peace promise.
So far, the United States remains a lone voice among major world powers, with Ambassador Susan Rice stressing that peace “cannot be made by pressing a green voting button in this hall.”
But US allies in the Arab and Muslim world, like NATO member Turkey, are proving woefully unhelpful to the peace process. Delighted with his country’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, Prime Minister Erdogan announced right after the UN vote that he would finally visit Gaza. He has promised to do so before, and as Cairo seethed with protesters challenging Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, he stayed away again.
Erdogan missed out on traveling with Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader in exile who was making his own first visit to Gaza. Would Erdogan have encouraged Haniyeh and Mashaal to pursue peace with Israel, or might his presence have made Turkey even more of an accomplice favoring violence? In recent years some have tried to portray Mashaal as a potential peace partner for Israel. Newsweek featured an interview with him entitled “Hamas Talks Peace” two years ago, in which Mashaal never said the word “peace.”
More recently, some in the Western media have concluded that Mashaal’s leaving Damascus, relocating in Qatar, and pulling away from Iran are signs of “moderation.”
For anyone who still thinks that Hamas might possibly reform, Mashaal burst that bubble on his Gaza visit.
“Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land,” Mashaal declared to a huge crowd gathered to celebrate Hamas’s 25th anniversary. Proclaiming that a Palestinian state would be realized through continued war, not negotiation, Mashal reaffirmed the Hamas Charter’s explicit call for Israel’s annihilation.
Neither Turkey nor the PA had any comment on Mashaal’s declaration. That silence is stunning.
The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.