Monday, September 19, 2011

The Turkish model

During his tour of the North African "Arab spring" countries, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Turkey's PM Erdogan was greeted with rapturous welcomes. Perhaps the Arab "street" wanted to show that they appreciate the support of a strong Muslim country and a leader that has taken a strident anti-Israel stand. He is certainly more outspoken than their own provisional governments, that have adopted a curious zig-zag policy towards Israel. Last week the Egyptian Foreign Minister said that the Peace Treaty with Israel was not "sacred" and could be changed. After the Israeli Government called in the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel to the Foreign Ministry and complained, the Egyptian Government reversed its statement and said that they had no intention of changing the Israel-Egyptian Peace Treaty.

Nevertheless, Erdogan was intent on sending his own message, that Islam and democracy are compatible, as shown by the Turkish model. He was hosted in Egypt at a public meeting of the Moslem Brotherhood, the source of most Islamism in the world from Hamas to al Qaeda. But, when Erdogan uttered the word "secular" his hosts were very upset and they criticized the use of this term. For them secularism is taboo, they only want to take the Islamist and anti-Israel parts of his message, and reject democracy and secularism. Nevertheless the general message that he brought of Islam and democracy co-existing, was a welcome sign. If these North African Arab countries adopt the Turkish model, they will be a lot better off than they were, but they will still remain strongly anti-Israel.

Then we will have a test, whether their democratic tendency will be stronger that their anti-Israel and anti-Western tendency. It has been proposed (by Francis Fukuyama) that democracies never make war on each other. But, this might be tested if Turkey keeps stirring the pot and the North African Arab countries adopt a form of democracy, yet retain their intense anti-Israel policies. Turkey announced that it is going to support the Palestinian claim for Statehood at the UN. If that is as far as it goes, then fine. A lot depends on how far Erdogan is prepared to go. If he starts sending Turkish warships to patrol the Eastern Mediterranean as he has warned and especially if he sends his warships to escort any future flotillas to Gaza, then this could result in a military clash with the Israeli Navy, and could lead to war. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Noone in Israel wants a war with Turkey.


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