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The Gaza Conflict: The View from Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took to the stage at Cairo University to condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas military leaders, weapons depots, and missile launching pads in the Gaza Strip. “Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza,” he declared. Let us put aside the massacres of unarmed Kurdish children under Erdoğan’s watch. These have no parallel in the Gaza situation, where Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to avoid This is the same man who has railed against “the Jew;” has worked tirelessly to break Israel’s lawful (according to the United Nations) blockade of Gaza, an action meant to keep weaponry out of the hands of Hamas; and has called Hamas rocket strikes on Israel a hoax. This is also the same man whom President Barack Obama identified as one of the five foreign leaders closest to him personally.

Any Israeli official who thinks that Turkey can be bought around has either replaced analysis with hope, or is delusional. After a decade in power during which he has seized the reins not only of state broadcasters but many private newspapers as well, Erdoğan has succeeded in indoctrinating a generation of Turks in anti-Israel incitement. Erdoğan isn’t going anywhere. But even if he does, the Abdullah Gül’s, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s, and Egemen Bağış’ that mark Turkey’s future are as fiercely anti-Israel.

Maybe it is time that Israel fight diplomatic fire with fire. Israeli officials might argue that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) today is fighting a military insurgency and no longer engages in terrorism. The group is overwhelmingly popular in southeastern Turkey. After all, the Kurdish areas of Turkey are not doing well; life expectancy throughout Turkey is lower than in Gaza. Given Turkey’s support for Hamas, perhaps the Israelis might begin a public debate about recognizing Kurdistan with Diyarbakir as its capital. Perhaps it’s time for Israel to consider providing both civil and military support to Turkey’s Kurds. Turkey and Turks should know what is at stake. At the very least, it’s important to speak not in diplomatic nicety—Erdoğan is incapable of understanding that—but rather in language he understands.


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