13 October 2011

I'm Just Sayin'

Yesterday, a very good friend of mine sent me a link to a Turkish newspaper site. The piece claimed that Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, thanked the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan profusely for his role in the imminent release of Private Shalit. Reportedly, Peres said that he was pleasantly surprised that Erdogan would leave everything aside and focus on the humanitarian aspect.

My friend's message was "well, I thought you were a contrarian idiot but maybe you are on to something here."

Since I don't regularly read Turkish papers (too much sound and fury, as I explained before), I googled "Shalit, Peres, Erdogan" and I got just a handful of relevant hits. Almost half of them were from Ynetnews, confirming the Turkish news site's report about Peres. The tone was what you would expect from Ynetnews but gave Erdogan credit for the successful completion of the mission:
"I was told that it was done by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Peres said of the man who has been constantly attacking Israel since the flotilla raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound ship.  
They also corroborated the original story's observation that Peres would not provide any details about Turkey's role.

Then I stumbled upon two interesting sites. One was from Israel Hayom, except the date was not yesterday's but July 3 of this year and it said:

The recent warming of ties between Turkey and Israel continues, with senior Israeli officials confirming on Saturday night that Turkey has made efforts toward a breakthrough in negotiations for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. 

Although the Prime Minister’s Office has refused to comment directly on the intensive discussions over Shalit’s release, one senior Israeli official revealed that over the past few weeks, relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have strengthened, and that the subject of Shalit’s release from captivity had been discussed.
Remember that this covers the time period about which neocon folks said that Erdogan is trying to destroy Israel and to start World War III.

Then I found this site which bills itself as "the authoritative source on Pakistan's security and strategic affairs" and it confirmed the July story by linking to Zaman, a conservative Turkish daily very close to the current government:
Claims emerged in July that an Israeli-Turkish businessman gave Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan a letter from Noam Shalit, the father of the soldier, asking him to convince Hamas to accept a German mediator's swap deal proposal. Erdoğan then reportedly pledged to handle the matter personally.
More importantly, there was this bit of information,
 Noting that Turkey was informed about the deal by Hamas ahead of the agreement, Davutoğlu said Turkey expressed support for the deal.
That sounds a lot like Hamas asked Turkey if they were fine with the deal before signing on the dotted line. I doubt that Turkey has ever had that kind of sway over Hamas.

Like Peres, Davutoglu (Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs) would not say anything about Turkey's role other than this:
“Turkey is ready to contribute to every phase of this process,” he added.
What I find significant in all this is not that Turkey helped with the liberation of Private Shalit. I don't know what they did and I am not interested in giving them credit for a process about which I know next to nothing. What I find enlightening is that behind all the blustery rhetoric that got everyone worked up, Israel and Hamas clearly had trust in Turkey and were able to work with it to achieve a very important result for both sides. So much so that Hamas sought their final approval for the deal and Israel acknowledged their assistance.

Tellingly, no party divulged Turkey's role in the process, including the Turks.

I have been claiming that a process of stabilization and peace making has been set in motion in the Middle East and Turkey was given the role of honest broker in the region. And that was the primary reason for the fiery anti-Israel rhetoric, which gave them street creds, as it were, by providing a much needed distance from the US and Israel. This incident clearly shows that this new role could be used beneficially to achieve larger goals.

Moreover, Shalit was a major sticking point in all this and now that both sides claimed victory, his release could be the turning point towards serious negotiations for a two-state solution.

Maybe, just maybe, Lieberman's corruption case will come to a head soon and we will see some speedy changes without him flushing the peace process down the toilet.

No comments:

Post a Comment