The standing ovation given by the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week to Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ call to grant full U.N. membership to an independent Palestine signals an escalation of growing, global impatience with Israeli intransigence in the Middle East.
Critics of Israel’s continued expansion into the West Bank recognize that repeated calls for further peace talks serve only to smoke screen and buy time for the further taking of Palestinian territory and repression of Palestinians.
Unfortunately, the United States, by far Israel’s most powerful and influential ally, has made its intention clear to veto a pro-Palestine U.N. Vote, thereby tacitly endorsing Israel’s continued aggression in the West Bank. If the U.S. took a different position, Israel would have to respond accordingly.
But the world is shifting. With “Arab Spring” insurgencies throughout the region, all calling for freedom and democracy, holding the line against independent Palestinian statehood becomes increasingly politically untenable. There’s no doubt the rising “Arab Spring” tide has both Israeli and U.S. leaders worried, a terrible irony for the pro-democratic U.S.
The hard core geo-strategic nature of the U.S.-Israeli relationship surfaces in this context, beyond lip service given to any other matter. There is little that’s defensible in arguments that the political standoff in the region is not really heavily lopsided to Israel’s advantage.
Major blows against this current arrangement include not only the standing ovation for Abbas, but the earthshaking shift in the posture of Turkey toward Israel taken in recent months.
Appearing on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria show Sunday, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a compelling case for why he has led his powerful Islamic nation, considered by many the most important moderating force inside Islam, to adopt a new, adversarial posture toward Israel.
The shift was rooted in the Israeli special forces attack on and murder of nine volunteers on a humanitarian “freedom flotilla” mission to bring supplies to besieged people in Gaza May 2010. The ships debarked from Turkey, contained Turkish citizens, and were attacked in international waters.
Noting that Israel is the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons, as well as phosphorous bombs and weapons of mass destruction, Erdogan questioned Israeli claims of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Palestinians. “Where are the accurate statistics?,” he asked. “How many have been killed? Is it 10, 20, 100, 200? Can they document this?”
On the other hand, he said, there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israelis.
The genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews does not justify Israel’s continued insistence that it is the victim in conflicts to this day, he said. “Muslims have never exerted cruelty on Israelis,” he contended, but he described scenes he’s seen personally of Israeli cruelty, instances where they “showed no mercy” in the killing of Palestinian children.
But for Erdogan, called the most powerful Turkish leader since the nation’s great modernizer, Ataturk, soured relations involve not only Israel, but Syria, as well, because of the recent, brutal repression of the Syrian people.
“People want to be free, and are struggling to earn their freedom,” Erdogan said. “They are fighting to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones.”
He said there needs to be an “alliance of civilizations” to secure peace against a global armaments industry that feeds off conflict and war.
In this regard, Syria is currently clashing with the “determining principles of democracy,” which Turkey will not tolerate. “You can never be happy through cruelty or tyranny.”
But Israel’s current posture is not monolythic within Israel, itself, where 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and domestic dissent is growing.
In his new book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion,” author Richard Forer, who is Jewish, notes that four high-level and respected Israeli domestic security chiefs warned in a published interview recently that “Israel is heading downhill towards near-catastrophe unless it makes peace with the Palestinians” and that unilateral steps, such as withdrawing from Gaza and the West Bank, would improve Israel’s economy, minimize terror and raise Israel’s status in the eyes of the world.