Lausanne And #Jerusalem
The populist approaches of Trump and Erdogan seem to converge when it comes to sensitive diplomatic issues.
The President can talk about the need to bring Lausanne up to date, while at the same time, he talks about opening the Kanal Istanbul, and thus putting Montreux up for debate. Both these two treaties can be regarded as the founding principles of our republic. This approach goes along with the suggestion that the 2019 Presidential Elections will be a major restructuring. The main opposition’s complaints that Greece is “occupying our islands”, and that “Cyprus is being sold short”, in comparison, sound weak and unfounded.
I had prepared myself to write an article on populism and democracy, but with President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem and Erdogan’s visit to Athens, I figured that would get me reprimanded by my senior (…). So I am going to continue my role as a diplomatic reporter (…). Having said that, this article is, by and large, still about “diplomacy of populism”.
First, a recap: Israel, founded in 1948, seized West Jerusalem in 1949 and proclaimed all Jerusalem as its capital. Israel fought the “Six Day War” in 1967, emerged victorious again, and this time, took East Jerusalem. In 1980, it annexed the whole city of Jerusalem and declared it its capital, without actually saying, “annexed”, via a legislation passed through their Congress, the Knesset. The US Congress passed a resolution in 1995 (374-37 and 93-5) in which it decided to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US Senate unanimously confirmed this decision in June 2017 (90-0).
Trump won the US Presidential Election in November 2016. When the decision to move the US Embassy first brought to him, he waived it for six months. Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt, the Special Representative on International Negotiations, were out on a regional tour to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Saudi supported Sisi in Egypt, and US supported Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman were also in play.
The proposed Kushner-Greenblatt solution is based on an “outside-in” approach. In other words, it prescribes an imposition to the Palestinians by making use of the overlapping of threats shared by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Trump is empowered by Evangelical Christians and Jewish lobbyists like Sheldon Alderson, “King of Casinos”, who contributed $ 20 million to Trump’s presidential campaign. Perhaps we may call the Kushner-Greenblatt proposal “prevarication” just as our own National Security Council’s “sedimentation”.
In the end, when the six-month waiver period for the transfer of the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was over, and it was time for Trump to decide whether to waive it for another six months, the situation in the region, Trump’s personal temperament, and the assessment that the decisions will help to ease the solution intersected. Trump went ahead and signed the waiver (logistically, it takes about two years for the Embassy to be transferred anyway), but he simultaneously signed the Congress bill from 1995 into law.
“Crazy and/or clueless President Trump signed a bill and the world has spun out of control as a result”
Alright, so, what is it that they exactly want, and where do they want to go from here? Frankly, when I was in the profession, I always preferred sound bilateral diplomacy. Claims such as “the UN will not accept it”, “it is null and void”, “it is against international law” do not appeal to me. It is important to keep in mind that this is not the decision of any other ordinary country but of the global power that is the USA, and it is consistent with our beloved and revered concept of “will of the nation”. Moreover, it seems that Moscow is also encouraging the Palestinians behind the scenes to sit at the negotiating table.
In other words, “crazy and/or clueless President Trump signed a bill and the world has spun out of control as a result” does not paint a comprehensive picture of the events. US spokespersons are already saying that the status quo of divided East and West Jerusalem will continue to be observed. We are not privy to the details of the Kushner-Greenblatt plan that is the result of deliberations held with the parties in the region, who are all bent on suppressing the hands of the Palestinians. How can a lasting peace be achieved without Jerusalem as the common capital of Israel and Palestine?
(…), I wrote about some of the extreme elements of the plan perpetrated by Muhammad bin Salman to Mahmud Abbas in which he gave the latter an ultimatum: “Either reach an agreement in two months, or resign”. However, in response to Trump’s disclosure, Saudi Arabia underlined that, it would be bound by the 1967 borders.
Moreover, the decision for Jerusalem, rather than instigating the desired outcome, which was to further isolate Iran from the Middle East, gave life to a cause around which Iran and the other countries of the region could reunite. On the other hand, I think it would be wrong to expect a new red-eyed apocalypse in the region, still suffering from the aftermaths of ISIS and the Arab Spring.
Erdogan is the first president to visit Greece since Celal Bayar’s visit to Athens in 1952, despite any return visits from Greece. Uttering the “updating Lausanne” rhetoric shows that Erdogan would rather play to the domestic politics rather than giving this neighborly visit a historic standing. On the other hand, he aimed for a diplomatic breach in his claim that the EU is isolating Turkey. He reinforced his popular image as a “man true to his word.”
“Our country is a regional power, while the US is global power; similarities end here.”
The populist approaches of Trump and Erdogan seem to converge when it comes to sensitive diplomatic issues. President Erdogan can talk about the need to bring Lausanne up to date, while at the same time, he talks about opening the Kanal Istanbul, and thus putting Montreux to debate. Both these two treaties can be counted as the founding principles of our republic. This approach goes along with the suggestion that the 2019 Presidential Elections will be a major restructuring. The main opposition’s complaints that Greece is “occupying our islands”, and that “Cyprus is being sold short”, in comparison, sound weak and unfounded.
If we go back to the beginning, the debate about how democracies can fight against populism is still out there and it remains open-ended. They can say “Our country is a regional power, while the US is global power; similarities end here.” However, it is also clear that uncertainties seem to be popping up faster than ever, and we are moving to uncharted waters. Commonplace responses resting on international law does not seem to be capable of producing sufficient antitheses against the trials that populism puts forth. There is an increasing need for more creative activism that is based purely on principles of peace.
Originally published in Turkish at https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/yazarlar/2017/12/10/kudus-ve-lozan/