So here at long last is the final act of betrayal. After years of posturing as the foremost defender of the rights of the Palestinian people, the AKP government of Binali Yıldırım, acting under the authority of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has signed an agreement with the government of Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel. It has sold out the people of Gaza, under a blockade imposed by Israel since the war of aggression waged against this part of Palestine in 2008-2009 by the Zionist state. Erdoğan has not only reneged on his long-standing demand for the lifting of what has been a devastating blockade, but in effect gone so far as to recognise it and give it its legal seal of approval. The AKP government has, according to the account of the agreement given by Israel, provided the assurance that Turkey will not act in a way that will damage Israeli interests in bodies such as the United Nations or NATO. In effect, Turkey, a country with a history of 64 years of NATO membership, has, for the first time, agreed to allowed Israel to establish an official channel of cooperation with this organisation and this under an Islamist government that poses as a staunch friend of the Palestinian people! Finally, Turkey has agreed to limit the planning and execution of military activities of Hamas against Israel from its territory, a shameful capitulation to the dictates of the Zionist state!
The capitulation is so indisputable that even the IHH, a self-styled humanitarian association affiliated to the AKP and a leading force in organising assistance expedition including the Mavi Marmara that led to the collapse of Turkish-Israeli relations six years ago, has disowned and criticised the deal.
The Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Turkey (DIP in its Turkish acronym) has severely condemned this capitulation by the AKP government which amounts to total betrayal of the struggle of the Palestinian people for its national emancipation from the yoke of Zionism, the racist and fundamentalist ideology that lies at the heart of the illegitimate state of Israel.
Brief historical background
What made the agreement of reconciliation necessary was the souring of relations between Turkey and Israel in the aftermath of the Israeli war of aggression on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. Before that, the Erdoğan government cooperated closely with Israel in the areas of trade, tourism, military orders, joint exercises, intelligence and so on. The cooperation went so far as to include, as a novelty, the intermediation of the AKP government between Israel and Syria with a view to achieving reconciliation between the two countries and the winning over of the latter country into the club of allies of the imperialist bloc in the Middle East. In effect, what really drove Erdoğan, then prime minister of Turkey, mad about Israel’s Gaza war was that he had not been notified in time despite the close collaboration of the two governments!
At the Davos Forum in the wake of the Gaza war, Erdoğan attacked Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, saying the Israelis “know well how to kill”, an incident that has ever since been remembered with the symbolic phrase “one minute” that Erdoğan used to take the floor despite the intervention of the moderator of the panel discussion, US journalist David Ignatius. This was posturing as the “saviour of the honour of the Palestinians” in an extreme form.
But the real divide came in May 2010 when the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship of a flotilla carrying aid to the people of Gaza in order to challenge the blockade imposed by Israel on the strip, was raided by an Israeli commando in international waters and 10 Turkish citizens were killed. Turkey pretty much severed its diplomatic relations with Israel and Erdoğan demanded that Israel apologise for the incident, pay damages to the families of the dead, and lift the blockade of Gaza.
Between 2010 and 2013, relations between the two countries remained in the freezer. Then in the latter year, under pressure from Obama while he was visiting Israel, Netanyahu called Erdoğan to apologise. This started a long process of negotiations, carried on in secret fashion for the most part, which resulted in the current agreement.
A miserable agreement
The most significant aspects of the agreement show that the Turkish government of the AKP has capitulated to the Zionist state across the board:
- The fact that Netanyahu apologised back in 2013 for the Mavi Marmara incident, for which Erdoğan was highly praised by his partisans, was in fact a very mixed blessing. Erdoğan himself apologised in return for having labelled Zionism as a racist ideology, which it incontrovertibly is! Moreover, that was back in 2013, when Erdoğan was riding high both domestically and internationally. Internationally because the Arab revolution was still on and Erdoğan profited from his multi-pronged relationship to the different sections of the international Muslim Brotherhood movement, most notably to Mohammed Morsi in power in Egypt. And domestically because this was before the people’s revolt in the wake of the Gezi incident, which inflicted a strategic defeat on Erdoğan. The popular rebellion started on the night of 31 May-1 June 2013. The apology had come on 23 March! If it were today, even the apology may not have taken as explicit a form as it did.
- Israel did accept Erdoğan’s second condition, i.e. that it pay damages to the families of the dead. It will pay 20 million dollars to a humanitarian fund (which gives it the face-saving excuse of pretending that what is being paid is not damages in the legal sense of the term but a solidarity fund). But there is a humiliating counterpart for Turkey in return for to this payment: Turkey will drop all charges in Turkish courts against the Israeli officials who raided the Mavi Marmara and killed 10 Turkish citizens! The payment will be made only when Turkey has passed a law to that effect, according to the Israeli press.
- Erdoğan and the AKP government have reneged on their third demand, the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. In order to sweeten the deal Israel has permitted Turkey to extend humanitarian aid to Gaza, nothing special in fact, since countries such as Germany or Qatar have already been doing this for many years. In exchange, Turkey has accepted that this aid pass through the Israeli port of Ashdod. But this was exactly what Israel had offered the flotilla back in 2010! The raid came because those in charge of the flotilla refused this humiliating offer! The capitulation before this condition posed by Israel now amounts to an even worse position than before, with Turkey legally recognising and giving the blockade its seal of approval!
- Turkey has now lifted its long-standing objection to military and intelligence cooperation between NATO and Israel! This is a concession that no Turkish government, even the most pro-US, had made in the 64 years of Turkey’s membership in the North Atlantic alliance!
- According to the information reported in the Israeli press, Turkey and Israel have committed not to prejudice each other’s interests in forums such as the United Nations or NATO. This amounts to diplomatic abdication of duties on the part of the Turkish government with respect to supporting Palestinian rights, since the question of the repulsion of Palestinian demands is the most important “interest” that the state of Israel has.
- In an Appendix, the Turkish government has committed itself to making sure that no Hamas “terror attack” or “military activity” (what terminology has been used is not yet clear) against Israel originate on its soil. This is capitulation to Israel of the worst kind!
- Last but certainly not least, the Turkish media has made great noise on the fact that the two governments have agreed on cooperating on the transportation via pipeline to Turkish ports of the natural gas in the Mediterranean that Israel claims to own. This means Turkey will be an accomplice in the act of Israeli theft of this natural gas from its rightful owners, the Palestinian people.
The bankruptcy of AKP’s international policy
The reason behind this wholesale capitulation is not difficult to discover. Erdoğan and the Turkish government have seen their international policy collapse in country after country. The fall of Morsi and the utter failure of the “moderate opposition” in Syria (read the Muslim Brotherhood) to make a headway, as well as the ideological retreat by Ennahda in Tunisia, have dealt a serious blow to Erdoğan’s strategy of attaining leadership in the Sunni world through these alliances. The unfounded hopes regarding the Syrian war (hoping to perform Muslim prayers in the historic Umayyad Mosque in Damascus in no time at all!) pushed Turkey into the recent confrontation with Russia, which made it impossible for the Turkish military to intervene in Syria in any manner. Relations with the United States and the European Union have been at a low since 2013. Turkey’s Syrian policy, its move to form a Sunni Troika of the Middle East together with the reactionary regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and its brazen defence of barbaric takfiri movements such as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) and En Nusra have raised Iran’s ire.
Faced with such isolation the AKP government was in a hurry to mend fences with Israel. Natural gas played a big role here. Turkey’s search for allies in its struggle against the Kurds, both at home and in Syria, also played a part. Interestingly enough, on the very same day when Turkey and Israel formally announce the deal reached, it was disclosed that Erdoğan had apologised to Putin for downing a Russian military jet seven months ago, which also goes to show the very weak position of the government on the international scene. This really is the bankruptcy of the policy that presented Erdoğan as the “leader of the Muslim (read Sunni) world”, as the new Reis!
Forward to a front of the exploited and the oppressed!
Next year is the centennial of the independence of Palestine form Ottoman rule. The future of Palestine lies neither in an alliance with the reactionary Arab regimes of the region, nor in a new colonial relation to the ideological inheritors of Ottoman imperial rule, which Erdoğan and his party claim to be. The emancipation of the Palestinian people lies in an alliance established by the working class and the oppressed against imperialism, Zionism and the reactionary forces of the Middle East.
The peoples of Turkey have always been at the side of the Palestinian people in its arduous struggle against Israel, a state firmly supported by imperialism. When we say “the peoples of Turkey”, this includes the electorate of the AKP. However, the AKP and Erdoğan are misleading this mass for the purpose of promoting their plans in the Middle East. It is the working class forces of Turkey that are the true friends of Palestine. The Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP) will work hard to make sure that the betrayal of the Palestinian cause by the AKP government will be compensated by an ever stronger support to Palestine by the working people of Turkey.