Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arab-Turk Popular Political Front Emerging vs Israel?

AP (via reports on Egypt PM Muhammad Morsi's speech at the convention of Turkey leader Erdogan's AKP in Ankara, where he proclaimed:

‘‘Our common goal is to support other people who are standing up against their administrations or regimes, to support Palestine and the Syrians in their efforts . . . . The events in Syria are the tragedy of the century,’’ . . .  ‘‘We will be on the side of the Syrian people until the bloodshed ends, the cruel regime is gone and Syrian people reach their just rights.’’

Whether this Turkey-Egypt front can be termed a "popular democratic" front is somewhat uncertain.  Both Erdogan and Morsi govern states that are structured as democracies, but both leaders have come under fire for authoritarian tendencies.  Watching the progress of "democracy" in both countries in the years to come will be an interesting exercise.

Nonetheless, both men seem to enjoy support on their respective domestic scenes; both men can claim popular mandates (achieved via the ballot box) to take the political bit firmly in their jaws and move forward.  Turkey's economy has burgeoned under Erdogan - enough so that, as this report notes, Turkey can pony up $2 billion to boost Egypt's economic reconstruction - without which Morsi, and Egypt's democracy, may well founder.

And as the report also notes, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was prominently in attendance. Erdogan spoke directly to the Palestinian cause.  As the report notes:


Erdogan said Turkey is determined to speak out against what he called Israel’s ‘‘state terrorism’’ in the region and praised Morsi for his support to Palestinians.

‘‘Through Morsi’s leadership, our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and in all other Palestinian cities are able to breathe easily,’’ he said.

Erdogan said Turkey would not reconcile with former ally Israel until it lifts its blockade of Gaza and apologizes for an attack in 2010 that killed nine mostly Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in a raid on a flotilla that tried to breach the blockade.


Mr. Netanyahu has been able to distract much of the West's leadership (Mr. Obama included) by (literally, at his recent UN General Assembly presentation) waving the picture of an Iranian bomb before their eyes.  But, along with the Iranian situation, there is no Middle East issue more urgent among the West's leaders as damping down the civil war in Syria before the flames there spread to Iraq, Lebanon, and beyond.  They likely are going to need the involvement, if not the leadership, of Messrs Erdogan and Morsi in achieving that.

Admittedly, Erdogan has his own dog in the Syria fight, what with Syrian refugees increasingly taxing Turkey's largesse, Turkey's own Alawis angry at Erdogan's hammering of the Alawi president of Syria, and Syria's resurgent Kurds beginning to establish an autonomy that Turkey's Kurds hunger for - and doing it along the Turkey-Syria border, no less.

But bear in mind that Israel now finds itself confronted, on its south, not only by a besieged and angry Hamas in Gaza, but also by a newly democratic Egypt whose leaders, if they are to remain in power, need to accommodate somehow the popular Egyptian "street"'s anger against Israel's long-time brutalization of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.  To its north, Israel may likewise soon find itself confronted (assuming Assad's eventual downfall) by a new Sunni-dominated government whose leaders may rush to fellow religious-Sunni Erdogan's doorstep in hopes of obtaining help to rebuild an already shattered country.  Any such support from Erdogan will surely come with a price, or at least, expectations: that Syria position itself firmly alongside Turkey (and perhaps alongside Turkey's new ally, Egypt?) in holding Israel finally accountable for its policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu would have us believe that the direst existential threat to his country looms in Tehran. A Turkey-Syria alliance need not be an existential threat to Israel.  But it just might be what's needed to put paid to Netanyahu's dream of "Greater Israel" - and with it, Bibi's hammerlock on the rise of a real, viable Palestinian state.

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