Tapping Turkish mediation

Washington is on the move to kick-start the Middle East peace process. But it seems to lack the courage to spell out an agenda through which it could compel both the Israelis and the Palestinians to follow suit.

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Published: Tue 23 Apr 2013, 9:41 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

All that it wants is to create the conducive environment for talks but that isn’t a possibility taking into account the benchmarks that both the parties concerned had laid down as prerequisites. The Palestinian leadership wants an end to settlements policy in the occupied territories, whereas Tel Aviv wants guarantees that the uneasy peace prevailing in the region would not be shattered. It is game of chicken or egg first.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, nonetheless, believes that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forthcoming visit to Gaza could torpedo the entire situation, and provide Israel with an excuse to adopt delaying tactics. Such an assumption is uncalled for. Erdogan, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the enclave, wants to realise his dream by stepping on its soil, as his country endlessly campaigns for ending its international isolation. The Mavi Marmara tragedy is a case in point, which was meant to highlight the Jewish state’s illegal blockade of a territory that houses around two million people.

Kerry, who played a pivotal role in mending fences between Ankara and Tel Aviv as the latter apologised for the attack on a Turkish aid flotilla in 2010, could have effectively made use of Erdogan’s visit as an opportunity to break the ice. With Turkey on a strategic page with Israel, by virtue of being the lone Muslim country to have military ties with the Jewish state, Erdogan could have acted as a mediator in convincing the leaderships on both the sides to give diplomacy a chance. Egypt had already contributed its bit by brokering a thaw between the warring Fatah and Hamas, and the US was well on board as the breakthrough was achieved. Kerry could put the ball in Ankara’s court to bring Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu across the table for a meaningful dialogue. Kerry’s concern that Erdogan’s visit could buoy Pan-Islamic sentiments is far-fetched, especially taking into account Turkey’s cautious approach in choosing sides as the Arab Spring unfurled. The defunct Mideast peace process lacks an honest broker, and Ankara could play a vital role in filling that void.

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