Monday, April 11, 2016

What about the Kurds? - Boaz Bismuth

by Boaz Bismuth

Various parliaments across the globe, among them the French, were quick to recognize Palestine while inexplicably forgetting about Kurdistan.

Turkey always espoused a policy of zero conflicts. For years Ankara believed this was the best way to enhance its international standing -- even at the expense of the United States. Up until recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had some very lofty aspirations, but something went wrong with his plan. The Turks now find themselves in the middle of a global war of terror, and instead of zero conflicts they have zero friendly neighbors. If that weren't enough, inside Turkey are millions of refugees and far too many bombings. At this rate, Turkey will also find itself with zero accomplishments.

The emerging Turkish-Israeli reconciliation needs to be put in precisely this context. It's not easy for Ankara to suddenly be alone in the neighborhood, friendless: The Iranians were never true partners; the bitter enemy Bashar Assad, who had one foot in the grave, received a stay of execution and a new hold on his country from Putin, who became Ankara's biggest new enemy ever since a Russian spy plane was shot out of the sky.

The Europeans as well, despite agreements in place, are not really partners. This has been especially true since it became apparent that Islamic State terrorist[s], utilizing the Turkish double game, crossed the Syrian border and eventually into Europe to carry out terrorist attacks.

Of course, reports of oil deals between Turkey and ISIS, exposed by the Russians, have not helped Ankara's image in the world. If we closely examine Turkey's extremely opportunistic policies from the past decade, we will see that Ankara has rightfully earned its current predicament.

Of all countries, however, Israel, which for decades has been the victim of Palestinian terrorist organizations, has reason to stand by Turkey in these difficult days.

Although the sides have yet to settle the two issues at the heart of their discord, namely Hamas operating out of Istanbul and the blockade of Gaza, which Ankara wants lifted, it appears Turkey is inclined to close the gaps. That is, of course, unless someone in Ankara believes this is still the time for playing games.

The Counterterrorism Bureau on Friday issued a rare warning, calling on Israelis visiting Turkey to leave the country immediately, and on those planning trips there to postpone them. The Americans, almost simultaneously, issued a similar warning. We can assume that both warnings are based on the same information. 

Turkey today is on the defensive against ISIS and the Kurdish PKK. In the past, Turkey acted according to its own set of priorities. While the world saw ISIS as a threat, Turkey saw it as an opportunity to yet again prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. 

And this perhaps is the point that Israel needs to ponder, in a Middle East that is not only changing but being reconstructed. From a historical perspective, the Kurds have always stood by our side. We too, in various times throughout history, have stood by them. The Kurds, along with Israel, are the most formidable pro-Western force in the Middle East today. The manner in which they have confronted ISIS in Syria and Iraq (representing the only significant force on the ground) obligates the international community to compensate them.

The question of an independent Kurdistan is undoubtedly a legitimate one, which for some reason or another is being pushed aside. Various parliaments across the globe, among them the French, were quick to recognize Palestine while inexplicably forgetting about Kurdistan.

One of Israel's main problems in the way of recognizing Kurdish self-determination was its fruitful cooperation with Turkey. The Israeli-Turkish rift could have pushed Israel to consummate something that began in the 1950s in Iraq, and put into practice the axiom stipulating that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." And perhaps this is the exact reason that Erdogan, who understands we are living in a changing world, would rather be friends again.

Boaz Bismuth


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