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Op-Ed: Turkey is More Important than the PA

Israel must set relations with Turkey way above the idea of negotiations with the PA. And Obama is beginning to realize whom he needs and who needs him to survive in our neighborhood.
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:54 PM


The aftermath of Obama’s visit left complaints that the peace process was not resumed. But please, do take notice that there is one in progress, even more critical than the one with Palestinian Arabs. It is the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, with a Turkey which just may have to cease hating the Jewish State, keeping in mind that up to three years ago they were exchanging technologies, intelligence, and military exercises. Perhaps this will now resume, especially, it can be assumed, the sight of Israeli planes in Turkish skies, so very close to Iran .

That is the most critical peace process, as it designs a moderate front against exterme Islamist states and Iran , which includes Jordan ’s King: it will hopefully create stability by containing Iran, Syria and Hizbullah.

Now, Erdogan, according to Hamas leader Hamas Haniyeh, will visit Gaza. Haniyeh also said he received the news at the same time as the news of the apologies of the enemy, Israel . A very bitter pill indeed, here gilded by the visit. It is not surprising that Erdogan is lingering in the relationship with Hamas: he did so also with Syria ’s Assad, as long as he could. He likes them.

But then, despite all treaties with Bashar, all the common words of hate toward Israel, all the anti-western common aims, he had to let go. The engagement with Hamas, one of these days, will have to be broken, no matter how painful it will be for Erdogan. The phone call with Bibi has been placed, Obama was standing there carefully listening.

Now, with the US summoning him to be part of the alliance against the Islamic extremism which is devouring the Middle East, how on earth can he stay openly friendly with the Sunni terror organization?

Obama’s gift to Israel: peace brokered with Turkey

The background: Before leaving, US Presiden Obama brokered a phone call between Netanyahu and Erdogan in order to restore diplomatic ties

Shalom Obama , Israel is looking up in the sky, again left alone, minuscule amidst a stirring Islamic world. After four years of frictions and disagreement, the Jewish people was happy to discover some friendly warmth; it was comforted by the scene displayed on the tarmac by Bibi and Barak, both with their jackets off, patting each other on the shoulder; it held an essential discussion with the US on a new strategy after the long period of paralysis in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. When Air Force One took off around 15:00 heading to Jordan ’s King Abdullah, it drew embroideries in the scorching sky, depicting a Middle East that may be somewhat different from the one that existed three days ago.

The signal was a last minute dramatic event: “Hi – said Obama speaking to the office of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem – I have a friend here for you”. So he handed over the phone to the one who has been Erdogan’s number one enemy for years, even before May 31st 2010, when in order to stop the flotilla the IDF killed nine Turks. Regardless of whom these people really were, why it happened and so on ... They were surely not pacifists as narrated by the Turkish tale, but that seems no longer relevant in relation to the present.

What is important is that under Obama’s wing, Bibi apologized for the event, he said that he regretted any act that caused the loss of human lives, he pledged economic compensation to their families, and he vowed amicable deeds towards the Palestinians, including easing up passages from the PA and even from Gaza . It was an historic phone call, which ended with the promise to dispatch ambassadors to Ankara and Jerusalem, who had previously been recalled.

Why did Obama eagerly want to pave the way to the old and once fruitful alliance with Turkey before the Islamist rule of Erdogan? The answer is already written in the choice to make Israel his first destination of his second term, as Cairo had previously been in his first term. Obama has underlined this choice.

The Cairo speech was on the eve of the Arab Spring; Obama was still hoping that his outreach policy and ousting the old tyrants could grant stability and peace for the whole world. But he was wrong. The takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood everywhere, in Egypt especially, did not create internal democracy or an opening to the West. Religions and cultures are clashing like never before in our era. The danger of a world explosion rises geometrically with Iran ’s choice to carry on in pursuing the nuclear bomb; Syria is a quagmire where a maddened tyrant and incontrollable forces tied to the most dangerous Sunni factions, extending to even Al Qaeda, play hopscotch tossing lethal chemical weapons.

Hizbullah are the fanatical advocates of this war, Hamas only marks its presence with rockets and threat to Israel, while Mahmoud Abbas, paralyzed by internal threats and by the education to hatred of his own people, never came to the negotiations brokered by Obama, who pandered to Palestinian Arabs.

Obama needs now to mend his own mistakes by creating a new anti-Islamist and anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East .

He therefore paid a visit to the Palestinian Authority and proposed again to negotiate, although unconditionally this time. He made his change of mind manifest to Netanyahu, highlighting the historical right of the Jewish people to its own land. By paying a visit to the Shoah Museum and Yad Va Shem, he reiterated the right to Jewish Statehood not on the grounds of the suffered tragedy, but because of its thousands of years of faithfulness to the land of Israel and its will to come out of slavery into freedom.

He is pushing as usual for the peace process, but he is mostly concerned about building a moderate front genuinely close to the US, in order to face the Syrian danger and a Hizbullah possibly ready for the Iranian challenge, the most important danger. To crown his task Obama went to Jordan, where 350 thousand refugees from Syria threaten, in addition to the economic crisis and the massive Islamist presence, King Abdullah, who welcomed the American friend with open arms. He needs Obama, as all other moderate forces in the Middle East in such a critical time do. Likewise, Obama needs them.

That’s why the US strategy in the Middle East has changed. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to Israel after visiting Jordan . There is plenty to do around here.