If Goldstone Doesn’t Speak Turkish, It Won’t Make Much Difference

by Gedalyah Reback

Surveying the headlines in Turkish papers (in Turkish or English), you will not see the name Goldstone anywhere. Goldstone’s words would force the Turkish government to say something substantial, which would increase the pressure for it to mend fences with Israel.

There is little that can be done to ensure the Turks take into account Richard Goldstone’s opinions that the War in Gaza was fairly fought. The Turkish Prime Minister has beefed up Turkey’s position in the Arab World based on its criticisms of Israel, especially the way he characterized Gazan casualties in 2009 (humiliating the President of Israel, Shimon Peres).

But he is under pressure. The Turkish military enjoyed ties with Israel, and NATO is not happy about the fallout. But as so long as there are elections in Turkey scheduled for June 12th, neither Israel nor Turkey is going to budge. Erdogan does not want to suddenly break his hard line against the Israelis and lose support in June. Netanyahu probably would not want to have to apologize for the “boat incident” last year in order to sweeten a ‘reconciliation’ with Turkey (that would make Erdogan look good, strengthening his party’s chances in June).

Things are likely to have permanently changed, or at least for the next few years, between Israel and Turkey. Even if things get better, they will not be as close. The one wildcard is Egypt. Yes, Egypt. Turkey has had just as much trouble trying to take a consistent public stance on the Arab revolutions as Barack Obama has. If things get worse in Syria, the government will face pressure to change its attitude toward repairing things with Bashar al-Assad (Erdogan has been a big supporter of open government, free of the military.

Erdogan supported the revolution in Egypt, but supports Syria making “reforms.” Obama supported the revolution in Egypt, but supported Bahrain making “reforms.” How Egypt emerges from all this is not certain, but it has a chance of being stronger, especially in the Arab World. If Turkey and Egypt start competing over economic and political influence, Israel could become an important connection for either country (then again, also a target).

The current Turkish government hates the awkward situation it faces with Goldstone, so it is going to be pushed as far away from the public as possible. Getting Goldstone’s words in Turkish is crucial to getting Turkey to let up.

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