Turkey’s decision to exclude Israel from an annual military drill ought to come as warning bell to the Israeli people. Although diplomatic relations between the two countries have at times experienced periods of strain, Israel’s relationship with Turkey’s military, which is highly secular and generally supportive of Israel, has remained strong. The apparent disruption of the two countries’ strategic military cooperation is therefore a sign that something is going terribly awry.
What’s even more unusual about the move is that it coincides with Turkey and neighboring Armenia’s push to resolve their own longstanding feud. Leaders in both countries are taking major risks and facing off strong opposition at home for the sake of peace and stability in their region. Turkey’s peace drive in its neighborhood makes it all the more unexpected for the country to suddenly decide to curtail its relations with Israel.
Initial media reports suggest that the decision came as a result of Turkey’s outrage over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. But it is more likely that the move stems from a more general sense of frustration over Israel’s intransigent attitude toward the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
The main obstacle to restarting those peace talks remains Israel’s refusal to halt its illegal expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. For the Palestinians, there is no point in negotiating a deal that would see the creation of Palestine if their future state is going to be riddled with Israeli colonies.
It is difficult to comprehend why Israel continues to be foolish enough to sacrifice the opportunity for peace just to cling to its futile settlement-expansion project. The settlements are a direct violation of Israel’s “road map” obligations, as well as international law, and thereby cultivate an image of Israel as an outlaw among nations. They also serve to as fodder for extremists who say that Israel has no desire whatsoever to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement. The settlers themselves may believe that they are championing the project of Greater Israel, but their dreams of building an empire in the 21st century are at best delusional and at worst criminal.
It is instructive to consider the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s official reaction to the accord that was signed over the weekend between Turkey and Armenia: “The agreement proves yet again that open and fearless negotiation is the only way to overcome differences and past events and to open a new page that looks forward to the future.” The Palestinians and Israelis can prove the same if Israel seizes the opportunity for talks.
As regular readers already know, the IOA does not advocate a specific solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g., one-state vs. two-state) or endorses a particular group or viewpoint. From its inception, the IOA's focal point has been a steadfast opposition to the Israeli Occupation and support for an equitable solution for all Palestinians - a people's basic right to self-determination.
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