Changing the angle of view. How Türkiye becomes a peacemaker in the Arab-Israeli conflict
How Türkiye becomes a peacemaker in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Against the background of the operation of the Palestinian Hamas movement “Al-Aqsa Flood” against Israel and the extremely harsh response of the Israeli state, world powers are coming to the forefront of world politics with their position.
On October 10, a telephone conversation took place between the presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which it was clearly revealed how changeable politics is in the soul of “yesterday will be yesterday, and today will be today.”
Reading the official press releases published following the Russian-Turkish high-level telephone conversation leaves one with an ambivalent feeling regarding the positions voiced by Russia and Turkey.
On the one hand, Russia, which in recent years has not hidden its special relationship with Israel, has taken a position that can be called pro-Palestinian, talking about the model of creating two states within the 1967 borders and the capital of the Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. The Russian leadership pointed to the United States as the main culprit in the current escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On the other hand, the Turkish press release after the communication between Putin and Erdogan avoids value judgments about the actions of the parties, and it does not mention a possible model for resolving the conflict. There we are talking primarily about meeting the humanitarian needs of the region, preventing the spread of tension, and concern about attacks on civilian settlements. The latter, however, without indicating the attacking side.
Yes, the Turkish media are vying with each other to say that Israel has received a crushing blow, and the actions of Hamas are presented as a “response to the Israeli occupiers” after many years of oppression of the Palestinian people. But the press, which primarily addresses the public within the country, is one thing, and another thing is the official position, which is directed outward and determines the foreign policy course.
The interesting thing is the complex history of relations between Turkey and Israel in recent years after the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2002. Since then, Turkish-Israeli relations, which developed in the spirit of strategic military-political cooperation in the Middle East region, have changed their sign from plus to minus. Turkish foreign policy has become not just distinctly pro-Palestinian, but actively pro-Palestinian.
In this sense, one need only recall the so-called Turkish “Peace Flotilla” that set out to break through the Gaza Strip in 2010. The latter ended with Israel forcing the ships to stop, the deaths of Turkish citizens, a diplomatic crisis, an Israeli apology, and the Israelis paying compensation to the families of the injured Turkish citizens.
After a 4-year break and complex diplomatic maneuvers, the mutual appointment of ambassadors – from Turkey to Israel and vice versa – took place only in October 2022. It crowned the efforts of the parties to “normalize” relations between Turkey and Israel and, as can be judged, became an indicator that the “winds of change have blown” in the Turkish position in relation to regional affairs.
First of all, it seems that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not a priority for Turkey now. It is overshadowed by the project of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), where Turkey plays the first violin and which has been developing dynamically in recent years. The reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan marks an important stage in the creation of a continuous Turkic belt from China to the Balkans. Turning the UTG into a full-fledged not only economic but also military-political alliance is an undoubted priority for Turkey.
Further, Turkey is interested in working relations with Israel, which is an important trade and economic partner for the country – foreign trade between the countries is showing dynamic growth, reaching $9 billion in 2022. The flow of tourists from Israel to Turkey increased almost sixfold last year; Israeli tourists are seen as promising in terms of Turkish policy to diversify “sources of supply.” As the famous Turkish expression goes, “Tourists are our (Turkish) oil.”
And finally, the notorious Israeli lobby in the United States – it is no coincidence that even at the height of Turkish-Israeli diplomatic difficulties, the Turkish president met with prominent representatives of the Israeli diaspora in America. Their influence on international finance is difficult to deny, and Turkey now, perhaps more than ever, needs an influx of funds from abroad to fix its faltering economy.
In this sense, you don’t have to go far beyond the Ukrainian example, where Turkey is “heartily” on the side of Ukraine, but does not introduce official sanctions against Russia and claims to become the main trade hub in relations between Russia and the West.
I note that the first words of the Turkish leadership after the current escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were specifically about peacekeeping. Yes, there will be other words criticizing Israel’s actions, but, as is to be expected, both Turkey’s words and actions will tread exactly the line that will not take Turkey past its capacity to stay at the arranging table with both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Becoming a “world-class mediator” is one of the goals of Turkish diplomacy aimed at transforming Turkey into a global power within the framework of the “Turkey Centenary” concept proclaimed by President Erdogan. They know about the Chinese character “crisis-opportunity” in Turkey too…
The creator offers his own viewpoint, which may not harmonize with the place of the editors.