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Oct 11, 2010

Turkey Can Be The Peace-Maker In Mideast Turmoil

A Guest Post by Dr. Harold Goldmeier


773-764-4357 HGOLDMEIER@AOL.COM October, 2010
Current peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are floundering. Pundits are blaming Israel for not extending the freeze on settlements and waffling on other pre-conditions the Palestinians are demanding. The real obstacle to a negotiated settlement is the apparent desperateness felt by all parties of the American government to extend its prestige in the Muslim world and achieve some kind of foreign policy success before the elections. That is why America is not the government who should be brokering these peace negotiations. Turkey now is the key.

There is a penchant among Mid East policy observers to classify Turkey as an enemy of Israel. This opinion is overreaching and pandering to the sensational. Turkey is angry and disgusted with the machinations by the E. U. that have delayed Turkey’s full membership and embarrassed her. Add to the mix the fear mongering and racist talk about Turkish workers and immigrants in European countries. She is also establishing her independence from the West with new alliances that catapult Turkey to a political power broker.

The Turkish government can be a leader in the Middle East peace process, or she Turkey can be dragged into a violent conflict just for her location. If Israel attacks Iran or visa versa, which side would Turkey join? The evil axis like in World War I, or the modern, Western alliance whose population more resembles and thinks like the West? The European Union should move speedily to accept Turkey’s membership. That will bring Turkey dignity and recognition among the world powers as force to be reckoned with economically and diplomatically.

Israel’s attack on the Turkish flotilla to bring materials to Gaza failed for lousy intelligence pre-boarding by commandos. Israeli planners failed to learn beforehand what types of “passengers” and cargo there were before the ships ever left ports. This tiny country lives in the fame of the1967 War and the raid on Entebbe, the destruction of the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, and most recently, the swashbuckling assassination of an international arms dealer for Hamas in an Arab country while he slept in his five star hotel room.

When Israeli commandos slid down ropes from a helicopter into the waiting arms of armed peaceniks their mission failed. A commando was thrown against the ship’s bow. Another was thrown over the side to the deck below. One commando lost his weapon to the attackers. My former Israeli soldier son said, when a soldier loses his weapon all bets are off. The rules of engagement change. The first job of all the other soldiers descending on the ship was to protect the lives of their fellow soldiers before all else. Paint ball or stun guns were thrown away. Commandos’ weapons with live ammunition were pulled out, and fired directly at the “passengers” who already showed themselves to be armed, violent, and now in possession of a soldier’s weapon. All nine who died might have been shot in thirty seconds or less after the soldier had his weapon taken.

Turkey is courting Muslim governments around the world, perhaps at the behest of some of the world powers. This makes Turkey appear to have the interests of both the West and the Muslims at heart. Turkey can play as an honest and reliable broker of peace, and an emerging world power herself. We know the Carter administration thought Prime Minister Begin too hard line to move President Sadat of Egypt, but they made peace. Even Israel’s hard line Foreign Minister Lieberman has been quietly meeting with the Turkish government, since the flotilla incident. Israel’s exports since the flotilla raid continue apace at $100 million per month the same before the raid. Travel from Israel to Turkey is about even in 2010 as in 2009. There is some drifting by Turkey away from American security interests and Israel. Perhaps this is as much a result America’s lack of clearly stated interests in the region and the double messages from the Obama administration about Israel as anything else.

What does P.M. Erdogan have going for him? First, he was elected to the post in free and honest elections, and his party has won eight national elections since he became Prime Minister. He is a highly popular, intelligent, politically shrewd, articulate and very popular with the majority of his people. He is an Islamist who dresses in business suits. He has a Western persona and no nonsense personality. Second, he is a man of very strong opinions. He is not afraid to express himself, while understanding how to make the most of diplomatic parlance, yet knows what lines in the sand to not cross. His banter and his political speech resonate with the Muslim street. He is satisfactory to and probably safe from the secular dominated Turkish army officer corps and other Muslim governments in the region. They not only praise him, but have let him take the lead in forging a place for himself as the leading spokesman on issues like Israel, relations with Iran on storage of nuclear materials, brokering calm between Israel and Syria even after Israel blasted Syria’s nuclear reactor, and conducting diplomacy with America and the European Union on economic and political matters. Turkey has mediated meetings between Syria and Israel, and President Asaad calls Turkey Syria’s “greatest hope” of achieving peace with Israel. Muslim governments, even the Arab league leaders do not fear him like they quake before the President of Iran. The Arab League’s ministers even travel to Istanbul to meet Mr. Erdogan, because right now, he has both the appearance of power and Edrogan is the center of power.

Erdogan is the leader of a constitutional republic. It is a nation of 74 million people of whom 95% live in urban areas. They are a cosmopolitan people well educated people, of whom nearly 90% can read and write. They have one common language spoken by nearly everyone, Turkish. These are the ingredients for a world power.

Turkey has long been an ally of Israel well into the administration of Mr. Erdogan, since his election as prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey in March 2003. These forces in play can still counteract the important observation of Prime Minister Netanyahu who once observed that Islamists scapegoat Israel, because she represents everything they hate about the culture and politics of the West.

Turkey has three immediate issues that deeply concerns Western nations: serious economic debt, her increasing economic reliance on Saudi Arabia, and the strengthening of Turkey’s religious right throughout institutions both prior to recent elections and certainly since them. Meanwhile, America and Europe are in the throes of economic depression, never decreasing reliance on the resources of the oil sheiks and China, and both Israel and America exhibit the same religious right movements he describes in Turkey. Both are drifting apart, not one or the other.

Joint military exercises, economic ties, and tourist travel between Israel and Turkey have been as very good for both countries and are continuing despite political snubs and tough rhetoric.. Turkish Airlines is a leading carrier from America to Israel. The fabric frayed when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead into Gaza to stop rockets being shot into Israeli cities. Concomitantly, the European Union has waffled, tapped danced, and avoided the acceptance of Turkey into its fold for reasons that often bordered on racism. Some Europeans fear that Turks with E.U. passports will become a greater economic burden to their economies. Others are just racist. Meanwhile, P. M. Erdogan became an instant celebrity in the Muslim world and to news broadcasters when he publicly attacked President Peres for launching Cast Lead and stormed off what would have been another non-eventful discussion panel at a conference of international leaders

Turkey, as she flexes her muscles, might come to see herself as a power broker. She has not been lost to the West, as Rubin concludes, but he is right when he writes that the West should not “…ignore the danger of Erdogan’s ascendance into the driver’s seat.” Hopefully, P.M. Erdogan sees himself as the right man, at the right time, in the right country in history to be the one who brings peace to the region; his legacy might be that he is remembered for that holy accomplishment much like Sadat and Begin.


Dr. Harold Goldmeier Chicago, Ill. 773-764-4357 hgoldmeier@aol.com Dr. Goldmeier was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University earning a Doctorate in Education, and taught as an Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical School. He taught public elementary school, worked in government for three Governors, the U. S. Surgeon General, and in education for nearly two decades. He recently sold his business after nearly three decades. He has been married more than forty years with children living in America and Israel, and a son who recently served with the Israel Defense Forces. He has published more than two-dozen articles in professional journals and popular magazines and newspapers. Dr. Goldmeier currently a writer, consultant to government agencies, and to small businesses on economic growth and marketing. His most recent articles appeared in The Jewish Press on terrorism, and in Haaretz of Israel.


  1. Dr. Goldmeier,

    You make a good case for using Turkey as the broker for a peace treaty. That is, IF Israel should enter into a peace treaty at all.

    On this your opinion is not clear.

  2. Wanna Saab: always good to talk--better than fighting; how many lives saved since Begin and Sadat and a quiet Jordan? My son in a co,bat unit said, "War is no fun, and only Americans who watch John Wayne movies think it's glamorous."


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