Turkey has taken the lead again in condemning Israeli brutality against Palestinians.
Once again it is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is leading the angry chorus. Arab countries, on the other hand, are accused of being less than enthusiastic in condemning Israel.
The belief, rightly or wrongly, is that Sunni regimes in the region have been forced into secret contacts with Israel because of their obsession with containing Iran. Many pro-government commentators in Turkey are accusing Arab governments of having relegated the Palestinian issue to the backburner because of this.
This belief harks back to the age-old Arab adage: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” even if it is Israel that is involved this time.
Arab officials reject this and say there isn’t a single Arab country that has not condemned Israel. Arab League Spokesman Mahmoud Afifi even took issue with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and denounced him for accusing the League of being “hesitant” in condemning Israel.
It is no secret, of course, that Ankara has little time for the Arab League. But latest events have not contributed to enhancing Arab-Turkish ties either. These ties are already strained over issues like Ankara’s ardent support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas.
Many argue that Erdogan’s angry attacks against Israel are politically motivated with an eye on the June 24 elections. There is truth in this, but there is also more to it. As an Islamist by nature Erdogan would have reacted the same regardless of the circumstances.
The Palestinian plight is not a cause that only Turkish Islamist support either. This has been a clarion call for the left-wing too in the past. Put briefly there is no Turkish politician left or right who will speak up on behalf of Israel.
With the exception of the U.S. and some countries that look to Washington for vital support, Israel today has turned itself into an international pariah. It seems happy enough with this as long as it has U.S. support and gets what it wants in Palestine.
Turkey under Erdogan, however, appears equally determined to ensure that this pariah status remains stuck to Israel, as long as gross injustices are perpetrated against Palestinians. This will leave Turkish-Israeli political ties in the doldrums for the foreseeable future, whatever course economic ties may take.
Turkey’s championing of a cause that should in the first instance concern Arab governments, on the other hand, is not going to endear Turkey to regional powers like Saudi Arabia or Egypt either.
Even today they are smarting over the fact that it is Turkey’s position on the Gaza massacre, and not that of Arab countries is what is dominating international news bulletins.
Israel may be an isolated country in the Middle East. Turkey’s position in the region, however, is not as strong as Ankara would like either. It was a shared sense of being “the odd ones out” that brought Turkey and Israel together in the past.
Today they are still the odd ones out, but with the difference that they are also at odds. We appear to be on the cusp of a final breakup between the two countries, which was avoided in the past regardless of how tense ties got.
Such a breakup will have implications for both countries; implications that will not necessarily strengthen their positions in the region.