Given the current regional order and ongoing conflicts, Turkey is best placed to play a positive role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that protecting the integrity of the al Aqsa mosque was a matter of faith for all the Muslims, he subtly conveyed a concern about two issues: the unity of Muslim world, and the future of the Palestine struggle for freedom.
None among the Arabs – the other parties to the Israel-Palestine conflict – demonstrated such urgent concern. Turkey, indeed, has inherited—and sought—a greater role in the region.
For Israel, placing metal detectors at al Aqsa had little—or nothing—to do with the security. It was, rather, a conscious effort to send a message to the world that in Palestine everything is regulated by Israel. Since the Oslo accords, Israeli has literally regulated everything in Palestine and meddled with the internal affairs of most Middle Eastern countries.
Again, during the al Aqsa stand off, but in a different manner, Israel sought conformity from world about the misadventure of placing metal detectors at al Aqsa. And in its own way Israel was successful.
Other than a few conspicuous political condemnations on such a brazen violation of human rights, no country really took a clear stand. Among the countries which have some weight on a global level, Turkey stood out in open support of Palestine and in defence of a larger issue that seemed to be cleary directed against a faith.
Over the past decade, Turkey has been acting as a ‘neutral arbiter' and has been performing mediating roles between the regional countries.
In 2010, helped broker a nuclear deal between Turkey, Iran and Brazil that in effort to try and prevent further sanctions from being placed on Iran. In August 2011, Erdogan visited Somalia to highlight humanitarian issues and support the country's recovery.
In the wake of the Arab Uprisings, Erdogan visited Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries to promote democracy.
In August 2012, Turkey sent a delegation to Myanmar as a token of concern towards the persecuted Muslim minority; none of the supposedly powerful Muslim countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Malaysia did anything concrete in support of the Rohingya.
Since the AK Party came to power, Palestine has enjoyed ardent diplomatic support from Turkey – arguably the only Muslim majority country that has an increasing role on the global stage.
In May 2010, the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms sent a Freedom Flotilla to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza strip. Israeli naval forces intercepted the flotilla, killing nine activists on board. The flotilla didn't serve the immediate purpose of sending aid to Gaza, but it sent a broader message: that Turkey cares about Palestine, sometime few other Arab countries have been able to demonstrate over the past decade.
The end of the Cold War, and the subsequent shift in global diplomacy, enforced a paradigm shift in world politics, which, invariably, made political alliances more fragile. Hence, the issue of Palestine, which enjoyed dominance over Arab politics for decades, was buried into oblivion. And suddenly, every Palestinian sympathiser forgot that the country is up against a dominant global order.
Since the Arab Uprisings, political dynamics in the Middle East have changed more swiftly than ever. At its outset, the revolutionaries sought to democratise the region. As it turned out, the Uprising toppled or weakened already destabilised political institutions, regional powers supported counter-revolutions in many of these countries – and unfortunately ISIS filled some of the power vacuum, Egypt's democratically elected leader was overthrown, and new political alliances were formed within this new power paradigm.
Although the role of regional powers is crucial for the solution of Israel-Palestine conflict, the region continues to remain divided on political, ideological and sectarian lines. Palestine can not realistically expect a sincere, concerted effort from Iran or Saudi Arabia. Through its support for Hamas, Iran is fighting its own battle on Palestinian soil. Saudi Arabia's counterbalancing alliance with Egypt and the US adds to its isolation. Earlier this year, the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar further worsened the political equilibrium.
Another country Palestine has looked at with hope is Egypt, but Egypt is also the recipient of the second highest defence aid from the US in the region after Israel, it's role as a mediator in the conflict appears compromised.
After the Arab Uprisings, Egypt's institutional policy towards Palestine changed when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. However, in 2013, General Abdul Fateh al Sisi ousted the first ever democratically elected president of Egypt, with support from Saudi Arabia and other backers. Israel's role in the coup is constantly brought up because of the warm relations Sisi has with Israel. As a result, Egypt's policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict tilted yet again towards the oppressor.
The equation is quite simple. Almost all of the significant countries in the region depend on foreign assistance – in terms of defence, diplomacy, or financial aid. After the creation of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the most prominent Arab countries supporting the Palestinian cause. After the 1967 war, that equation changed.
Today, Turkey is the only Muslim country that has the capability – and the diplomatic power – to take an independent stand on this issue. Since Palestine is a priority for Muslims globally, Turkey's role in guiding the ship is of vital importance.
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