February 8, 2009
Israel has been making a fundamental mistake, in that it thinks applying more and more military power will lead to an easier solution of the Palestinian issue. Military power alone did not solve any conflict in the world: If you aim only to abolish the other side, to destroy your "enemy’, you cannot reach a lasting and just peace and security.
As a matter of fact that Israel’s power policies created Hamas; Israeli power policies today spawn future years of Palestinians. If you harass and humiliate Palestinians now, you cannot make any constructive negotiation with them tomorrow. Even an enemy deserves respect. Israel by humiliating Palestinian people poisons the next generations. Israel will have to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. Maybe that will not happen soon, but one day it will. Especially with Obama presidency we have more hope. However after the Gaza, under these conditions Palestinians are becoming more rigid, less moderate and less constructive.
Massacring extreme Palestinians is not a logical way for Israeli security because when you kill one of them you create many more. Let’s imagine that Israel killed all of the Palestinians. But behind them are Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, other Arab countries, and the whole Muslim world. It is not possible to abolish all of them. The 2006 Lebanon War and today’s Gaza Operation increased the wave of anger, hatred and abhorrence against Israeli state in a huge geography from Morocco to Indonesia. Israel’s collective punishment and disproportional use of force deeply affected the entire Muslim world.
The most important risk here is that the future of Arab regimes is in great danger. Although the regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the other Arab countries seem different from each other -kingdom, monarchy, one-party dictatorship etc.- they are similar in that they are not democratic enough and they are in reality relatively weak regimes. There is a big gap between the Arab leaderships and their own people and the Israeli attacks put Arab regimes on the spot. For example, Egypt is acting as if it is a ‘secret’ partner of Israel in the Gaza problem and the fettering of Gazans. Thanks to Egypt’s Rafah border gate policy and anti-Hamas stance, Israel could continue its attacks against Arabs in Palestine. At least there is a perception. People think in this way. They also blame Egypt and other Arab leaders. In the Arab countries regimes look so strong. The powerful militaries and police look so strong, but the appearance does not show the real power. Since the regimes are no solid enough and they are not legitimated enough before the people, the militarist symbols become more marked. Under these circumstances an unexpected big demonstration or massive reaction may cause a regime collapse in Arab countries. A military coup is another possibility. Or one of the fractions of the Muslim Brotherhood-like religious groups may prefer violent way of struggle against the regimes. These regimes did not come as a result of democratic elections and it seems that collapse will not be with elections. The Israeli bloody attacks increased tension in the region and increased pressure on the Arab regimes. If for instance Egypt collapses, there will be a larger country with a Hamas-like regime and this will create a domino effect in the region; we may even see it in Syria. Borders are artificial and these events quickly affect each other. I mean Israel is now not happy with Gaza Hamas, but it transforms the whole Arab peoples to a Hamas modelled people.
Israel and the US of course must emphasize the creation of sustainable, stable, legitimate and citizen supported regimes in the region. It is not impossible to create such kind of regimes; the demands of ordinary Arabs or Muslims of the region are not so utopian to carry out. The first need is economic recovery. There is almost no job in Palestine. If there is no job, it means that there is no hope. Without hope you can’t be moderate. Second, in Palestine and Iraq in particular, an acceptable peace is needed. Nobody is talking about absolute justice. Al Fatah and Hamas, both, are ready for peace, but you have to negotiate something before an agreement. However Israel wants to force them to sign papers without consulting their considerations. By isolation Hamas, you cannot reach an agreement with Hamas. First the tension should be decreased and the sides must recognize each other’s right to exist. It is true, Hamas does not recognise Israel, yet Israel too does not recognise Hamas.
An agreement via Egyptian mediation, or only with Al-Fatah, will not be permanent. Egypt seeks abolishment of Hamas due to the Muslim Brotherhood "threat’. It is at least as displeased with Hamas as Israel is, and it sees Hamas as a threat to itself. If Israel wants a real, long-lasting agreement with Palestinians it has to make sacrifices and it has to make such an agreement with the all representatives of the Palestinians including Hamas and other radicals. Israel and international community should provide an environment to Palestinians to normalize their politics. Hamas needed time to soften its rhetoric and politics. However no one gave such an opportunity to normalize Palestinian politics. Under bombs no political party can change itself. If you massacre about 400 children and babies in the name of combating terrorism you can find nobody around table to negotiate but missiles and anger targeted to you.
Although we have a ceasefire today, it is very late for Gaza. They lost more than 1300 people, almost three fourths of its are civilians, including about 400 babies and children. Egypt unfortunately contributed a lot to continuation of this operation. If Egypt could send drastic messages like Turkey from the first day, or could cooperate with Turkey, neither Israel nor the US nor the EU would be so silent, and the attacks would not continue so long. But Egypt gave the impression that it does not see any problem with the continuation of the attacks, and it maintained a stance against incriminatory statements against Hamas. Egypt and Israel strictly blockade Gaza. Egyptians argue that they had no right to fully open the border due to the agreements they had signed. We fully respect to Egypt’s sensitiveness to obey international law while Gaza people were under jet bombs yet which law Israeli troops were applying when they were attacking Gaza territories?
Israel Accomplished Its Goals?
I am not sure if Israel had certain targets when it attacked Gaza. Israel has tried to carry out ethnic cleansing in Palestine territories since its establishment years. It has worked for the expulsion of Arabs for years and still wants to homogenize and expand its territories. Israel thinks that it has been successful in its policies in the region since the 1920s. 11% of the entire Palestine population was Jewish in 1922. By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 38 % of the population. Israel increased Jewish population in Palestine and expanded its territories day-by-day. Israel’s ethnic cleansing is the oldest one in the world; it lasted almost a century and still continues. But significant number of Arabs remained in Israel, and Israel still has not been able to expand into the West Bank as much as it wanted. Israel does not seek to reoccupy Gaza land, Israel aims to weaken Gaza and make them so dependent. Another aim is to make West Bank an enclave surrounded by Israel. They try to cut Jordan-West Bank connection with the Jewish settlements in West Bank. For the extreme Jewish approach the wars will be ended when the Palestinians become so weak that they cannot resist Jewish people. The wars will be ended when Israel becomes a homogenous (if not Arab-free) and expanded enough country. In fact such aims are open-end aims and not realistic.
Today’s situation in Gaza is likely pioneering three or five future wars. Israel is keen to make a deal, as along as it can create the agreement itself. But these assaults are radicalizing the Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims and threaten Israel’s security in mid and long term. As a matter of fact that homogenization of a country is not the only component of security. Although it is one of the must-conditions in some nation-state building cases, there are many others as well.
I do not think the operation was advantageous for Israel. It can not continue a siege in Gaza infinitely. And why there are tunnels? Gaza is not a normal country with borders and legal customs. A country’s people may not be imprisoned. Assume that Hamas is abolished and Gaza became a normal state. Will it not buy weapons? Of course it will. It is difficult to understand how one of the strongest and most advance country like Israel cannot deal with a backward and poorest country like Gaza? In the 20th century you do not have kill more than 1300 people including about 400 children to kill a few terrorists. Hamas has no technology and its missiles are in reality so-called missiles. In fact the missiles are not the problem. Israel focuses on a wrong direction. The problem is not the missiles but the hatred against Israel. Every country has neighbours and all neighbouring countries have missiles or other deadly weapons. Turkey for instance also has many neighbours with weapons. In Iran, for example, they have a huge and strong army with sophisticated weapons which cannot be compared with the Hamas "missiles’. Or, take Iraq, Syria, Greece, Greek Cyprus, Russia, Armenia, Bulgaria or Georgia. Turkey is one of the countries in the world with many such strategic neighbours. However, in the day and night they are not targeting Turkey with these weapons. I mean, it is not how many of your neighbours have weapons. What matters is why they launch them at you. Israel is mistakenly focusing on that point. The focus must not be why they have rockets, but why the Palestinians are hopelessly launching them at Israel? Although they know it will not stop or destroy Israel and cause a great deal of trouble for Palestinians when they launch these "so-called missiles," their motive is anger against Israel, which is not to be mistaken as racism. Before the Palestinian events, Arabs were not killing Jews. Arabs are one of the cleanest races in the world regarding racism and anti-Semitism, and Muslims are the cleanest religious group in the world in terms of anti-Semitism. Jews were subjected to anti-Semitic practices not in Muslim societies, but in Christian societies for centuries. These people are launching the rockets against Israeli politics, not with racist feelings. Israel must not try to abolish rockets but instead target these feelings of animosity. And these feelings will not be abolished by killing children or innocent women.
There is no possibility for an end to Israel’s security problem, because when you assault you will be assaulted; an assault will only bring about another assault. One important rule of security is to create friends and if you accomplish this you must transform them into neutral position. Even when you are making war this must be part of a greater strategy to reach long-lasting normal relations. You cannot destroy your enemy and you will need your enemy to establish a relation.
Israel has not any friend in the region, and now it disturbs its friendship with Turkey. All of the countries are bad but you are good - something like this is not possible. Israel is not working to have friends in the region and does not question its mistakes. It has economic power and other kinds of soft power elements, but it doesn’t use them to make safer its region. For example, it would not be so difficult to integrate Jordan or Gaza into Israel. Israel is more powerful than Hamas in shaping Gaza. In the end, we are talking about 1.5 million people in Gaza. Israel has an economy to accommodate them.
Regarding this issue, Israel may receive the support of countries like the US, EU, and Turkey. If Israel asks each of the countries in the world to establish one factory in Gaza and West Bank I am sure that almost all of them will do so. They have already spent sends too much money as a humanitarian aid to Palestine. I am sure that the Gaza people with job and hope will not vote Hamas or other radicals. If you have a normal life you do not risk your life for the crazy radicals. But Israel didn’t give any chance for such an option. For example Turkey had initiated a project (industry for peace initiative) in Erez with the contributions of TOBB, but Israeli planes razed it. Turkey invested a lot, and Israel destroyed immediately. They did not allow Turkish approach to grow in Palestine. No country wants to cooperate with this type of country. Killing, yet desiring to be secure! That is impossible. It is foolish to think that today you will bomb children and tomorrow you will wait for them to bring you security. Whoever you bomb today will be a danger in the future. Israel’s regional security understanding is so similar to its Palestine policy. Israel encourages the US to attack Iran and Syria. Israel’s Iraq policy is also based on more conflict and a divided Iraq.
Turkey is a special country: It can reach out to Hezbollah and Hamas, as it has credit in their eyes, and at the same time it has an effect on Syria and Iran, it has their trust. Ankara has direct relationship and cooperation with Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Hamas, Hezbollah. For example, not only Muslims in Lebanon but also the Lebanese Christians also trust Turkey. Turkey is a trustworthy partner for Israel and Palestine too, it is a European Union candidate, and for the US it is a good and reliable NATO ally.
In the Arab World, Turkey’s star brightened after the Iraq War, and it gained the trust of Arab people. It has perfect relations with Saudi Arabia. Turkey is the only country which has good relations with all of the sides. Turks governed the region for the centuries, and it is a natural mediator and facilitator for Iran, the US, Israel, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Turkey is the biggest economy in the Middle East and biggest economy in the Muslim world, and Turkey is the biggest economic partner of Israel in the region. Its military is more powerful than the region’s other countries and it is one of the most populous countries in the region. Such a special country must apply itself to peace negotiations, and it is very keen to be a mediator, because it has its interest in the solution of the problems besides economy and security. But if the two sides do not want any progress Turkey can not contribute alone to Palestinian issue. It cannot play the mediator role alone. Turkish statesmen need the great powers political and economic support to their constructive efforts. In the past, for example, there was Norway, but the US and EU countries supported the progress. Firstly the sides must be sincere in progress and they should ask help from Turkey. In the Palestinian-Israeli issue there is a problem of Israeli sincerity. We have many doubts about Israeli sincerity. Israel talks something, doing another thing. Second, does the US want to be involved in the process? If the US wants to be on Israel’s side, this would disprove any claim to neutrality and therefore complicate the mediation role and solution.
Turkey advised ending the assaults and called attention to the urgent need for negotiations between Israel and Palestine. And these negotiations will be by the elected people of Palestine: If it is Hamas, then Hamas; if Al-Fatah, then Al-Fatah;. as long as they were fairly elected. Gaza Strip and the West Bank will begin a normal relationship with the world. International powers may control the Palestinian borders for the entrance of weapons. If it is needed, the United Nations may decide to ban the entrance of the weapons into Palestine. But for all of the other civil needs there will be free entrance and exit to Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli blockade must be lifted immediately. The third thing is that Palestinians have problems of economy, education, and health; they have become a "beggar nation’. They have no economy, no industry, and no tourism. They are not a normal nation. They are prisoners of Israel. Prisoners cannot be true partner to establish peace and security. Then Israel and the world must first free them, and then expect something. They can not continue their life without the help of others. Turkey advises creating an employment program, for one cannot negotiate for peace with a person who is on the edge of hunger. Economic and social improvements, negotiations and diplomacy all work together. What Turkey is saying about diplomacy is that there was a level reached in Oslo that may be a starting point for future negotiations. Turkey’s approach is to first discuss the issues that are more easily solved, and postpone the more difficult issues until a later date. It means that there must be no target for a full packet.
The solution of these problems may take time. For example, the issue of Jerusalem may be suspended. Negotiations may continue, but the issues of settlements and refugees could be more easily solved. Regarding Gaza, I believe that Turkey should not join the international force which will be deployed between Gaza and Egypt if the blockade of Gaza will continue. The problem is not between Gaza and Egypt. I do not think there is a need for Turkish power between Egypt and Gaza; Egypt is not bombing Gaza, but Israelis. International force is needed between Israel and Gaza. The ideal solution is to use international force at all of the Gaza borders; the number of border gates may be increased. But like a normal state, the air and coastal space must be opened and the control should left to the Palestinians; the siege must be lifted .Only for the entrance of weapons should be under international control. In normal passing there must be no prohibition. The US and the EU did everything to isolate Hamas, but the whole Gaza people paid the cost. If international community could have been more tolerant towards the party the Palestinians voted, Hamas could have been softened its policies and finally could be less radical. To govern a state requires responsibility, which, in the past years, the international society has withheld from Hamas.
Anger Governs Israeli Security Policies
It is unfortunate that it seems anger rules Israel, not intelligence. Another driving force is political competition to get more and more votes. That’s why Israeli politics is becoming more extreme everyday. The parties who were considered extreme in the past now among the strong candidates for Israeli Government. The role of anger and election competition can be easily understood when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Gaza attitude last year and this year. Olmert was against a military attack against Gaza last year. His government was resisting calls for a ground attack in Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns. Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had called for a "methodical and organised" response to Hamas. "Anger is not an operational plan," he had told cabinet colleagues in 2008 February. However Olmert told his cabinet freiends at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in February 2009, in comments broadcast on Army Radio "the response to the rocket fire on our forces and citizens will be harsh, and it will be disproportionate".
We should remind Olmert that “anger is not an operational plan”.