Turkish people were ready for an enthusiastic celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the foundation of the Republic. However, Hamas’ vicious attack on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s irrational response based on excessive use of force on civilians by bombing settlements in Gaza caused sadness and anger, especially among the Islamist/conservative circles within the country; thus, overshadowing the joy of the Republican celebration.
It should not be surprising that in a country almost fully composed of Muslims, the death of innocent Muslim children causes despair and anger toward Israel. Wrong military strategies adopted by the Israeli State can be proven by the statistics as well; almost half of the dead people due to Israeli bombardments were children and babies (3,000 children died among 7,000). For sure, not only Islamists who care about Muslim lives, but left-wing, liberal, and humanitarian right-wing moderate people also feel sad and angry because of witnessing dying children especially when hospitals and sanctuaries are targeted by military forces.
Following Hamas’ attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan kept his calmness and common sense and invited both sides to moderation to prevent further bloodshed. Erdoğan’s response was positively received by Israeli diplomats as well. However, as a politician from an Islamist background, and gaining popularity with his fierce criticism of the Israeli aggression in Palestine, Erdoğan could not keep his calm anymore and began to criticize the Israeli administration with harsh words in the coming days after seeing the tragic videos coming from Gaza. Bodies of dead children and babies deeply wounded Erdoğan and Turkish people. In that sense, Erdoğan defended Hamas as a liberation organization and mujahedeen group and blamed Israel for acting like an organization rather than a state. Erdoğan also stated that he cancelled his visit to Israel although he shook the hand of Netanyahu just a few weeks ago at the United Nations General Assembly. In Türkiye, even people who defend Israel’s right to self-defense began to criticize the Israeli government and defense forces for such horrific crimes. Western countries’ indifference including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, etc. also hurt Turks and Muslims around the world and proved once again the flawed nature of the international order of today.
Was it a coincidence or a deliberate timing we do not know, but the tragic effects of Israeli strikes in Gaza overshadowing Republican centennial ceremonies could be the marker of Türkiye’s second century as a more conservative, Muslim-oriented, and self-ordained country. It is obvious that Turkish foreign policy has become more divergent from Western preferences in recent years as proven by Türkiye’s continuing trade and good relations with Russia as well as Turkish concerns for Palestinians in addition to Turkish insistence in Cyprus for the recognition of Turkish Cypriots’ state; the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Objectively speaking, while the West seems more just in the case of Ukraine, the Turkish position seems more convincing to me in Palestine. That is because in the first case, Russia was the aggressor and started an unnecessary war, and in the second case although Hamas seems to be the aggressor who started the bloodshed, in fact, the lack of a political settlement, Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands, and Israel’s continuous military operations over the years provoked such an attack. Hamas’ Islamist nature and barbaric methods should be of course condemned and criticized, but this does not change the fact that these are the results of the lack of a political solution to the decades-old Israeli occupation problem.
So, for all these reasons, we urge the United States to take the lead and come up with a settlement plan in Palestine to stop the deaths of more children and babies. Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be ended with a just, well-thought, and well-negotiated plan that would create a free Palestinian State in addition to the existing Israeli (Jewish) State. This could be done only by a joint U.S. and the United Nations (UN) effort, but so far Biden administration seems very ineffective and indecisive, unlike earlier Democratic governments such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who struggled for a settlement in Palestine and Arab-Israeli normalization. Biden administration should remember that even Trump administration had a plan for settlement and peace in Palestine and staying behind Trump administration on the Palestinian issue should be a source of shame for all Democrats.
Lastly, I should warn that a free Palestinian State that came out of threats made by nuclear weapons possessed Iran in the coming years would make the U.S., Israel, and democratic regimes in general much weaker and less prestigious in the region. So, that is why, I think it is very timely for the U.S. to take action and solve the problem for good for the safety of Israel as well. Otherwise, I think an Iran-forced settlement in Palestine could be happening in the near future and this will turn Iran into a regional power despite its regime’s theocratic and totalitarian character. Turkish people on the other hand will celebrate the centennial of their Republic in a respectful manner to show their respect for Palestinian and Jewish people who lost their lives in a meaningless war.
Assoc. Prof. Ozan ÖRMECİ