Category Archives: Israel-Palestine

The Paradox of Iranian and Western Paranoia

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

15 December 2011

Turkey Shooting?

Things are going badly for the Middle East these days.

Last month, a high-ranking general in Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that, if the United States and and/or Israel attack Iran, they would retaliate against NATO’s missile defense radar in Turkey. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who is in charge of the IRGC’s ballistic missiles, said the following: “If any [attack] is staged against Iran, we will target NATO’s missile shield in Turkey and will then attack other targets.”

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, calmly urged Turkey to refrain from deploying the missile shield. But Member of Parliament (MP) Hossein Ebrahimi, who is Mr. Boroujerdi’s deputy in the commission, followed General Hajizadeh’s line by arguing that Iran has a “natural right” to hit targets in Turkey.

Although Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi tried to downplay the hostile remarks yesterday, it is doubtful whether Iran can put the genie back in the bottle.

Putting Oneself in Iran’s Shoes

In order to make sense of Iran’s foreign policy behavior, we need to understand the psychological trauma of three invasions in the twentieth century – the most recent and bloodiest at the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iran-Iraq War, which started in 1980 and ended 8 years and nearly 800,000 dead Iranians later, is a constant reminder to Iranians that they cannot take their security for granted. When Saddam attacked in 1980, the United Nations did not condemn the aggression. When Saddam used chemical weapons against the Iranian military throughout the war, the world simply watched.

Today, as far as the Iranians are concerned, there is nothing to protect them from a similar fate. That is the primary reason why Tehran may develop nuclear weapons at some point. That is also the reason why Iranians do not want Turkey to station a missile defense that could neutralize their still-conventional missiles.

But whatever gains that Iranian leaders are trying to achieve, threatening Turkey only worsens their already fragile position. Just as international threats and sanctions have only intensified Iranian resolve to continue with the nuclear program, threats against Turkey will have a similar effect. While Turkish people and their leaders have repudiated claims that NATO’s missile shield would help to protect Israel, Iranian threats might force them to reconsider their position and keep the missile defense.

Iran, Israel, Turkey, United States: The Four-Way Mexican Standoff

If threatening Turkey is so foolish, then why are Iranian leaders doing it? Much of it has to do with Syria, Iran’s erstwhile ally. While Ankara supports the uprisings against Bashar al-Assad, Tehran is throwing its weight behind the Syrian President. Geopolitics is the pure and simple reason: Without Syria, Iran would have significant logistical difficulties in supporting Hezbollah and HAMAS, its most effective deterrents against Israel. But with the NATO shield in Turkey keeping watch over its missiles, a weakened Hezbollah and HAMAS would diminish Iran’s leverage against Israel. And such a development may make an American and/or Israeli attack against Iran more feasible.

The scene resembles a Western movie with Israel, the United States, and Iran pointing guns at each other’s heads. Turkey, for its part, looks like the semi-puzzled cowboy that would rather walk away from this mess. With millions of lives in danger, that is really the only smart option.

But how can the standoff be defused? The first thing to do is to understand the respective parties’ insecurities. With nearly 150 thousand U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and NATO bases in Turkey, it would be hard to convince Iran that it is not surrounded by hostile countries. Nevertheless, and despite the negative effects of recent allegations that Iranian agents tried to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the Obama administration needs to signal to the Iranian government that it has no interest in escalating the current situation (assuming, of course, that cooler heads still prevail in Washington).

Iran should also understand the other side’s concerns and refrain from brinksmanship. Although the recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program is not the damning document that spells doom-and-gloom (as some media outlets purport it to be), the parts on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program is worrisome. For the sake of peace, Iran has to come clean with its nuclear program sooner rather than later.

Most important, Iranian leaders should stop jeopardizing their country by forcing Turkey to the Western side. Attacking Turkey would only give the United States and/or Israel the pretext that they need to strike at Iran. While a unilateral Israeli attack would not have the desired effect, a sustained U.S.-led NATO action would be extremely hurtful to Iran. And although Iranian threats to shut down oil shipments from the Persian Gulf would also be extremely destructive for the world economy, Iran would emerge from such a scenario in the worst possible way.

To paraphrase an old saying about paranoia, just because Iran, the United States, Israel, and Turkey are paranoid does not mean they should start shooting at each other. In fact, it would be best if they could all slowly holster their guns and step away from each other before they cause irreparable damage to the world.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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Notice to Egypt: Don’t Listen to Turkey, Iran, or Israel

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

February 8, 2011

Opinion-makers and political leaders in Turkey and Iran are suggesting that Egypt should somehow be inspired by their regimes and foreign policies for its new political order. Turkey appears to be a successful case of a secular democracy in a Muslim-majority country. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called upon Egyptian President Mubarak to heed the voice of his people. The subtext: Egypt should join in Ankara’s promotion of open borders and free trade in the Middle East, coupled with a new foreign policy free from Western influence.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran, celebrating its Revolution this week, hints at the same idea with a twist: The new regime in Egypt should stop acting like a “puppet” of the West, heed the voice of its people, and take a firm stand against Israel as it had during the Cold War. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has done just that. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei argues that the “Islamic movement” in Egypt may be following Iran’s revolution. Egypt is joining in, or so the idea.

Looking at the situation, the Israeli government is concerned that a government hostile to Israel might come out of the current turmoil. Jerusalem almost sounds as if it prefers everything in Egypt to stay as it is.

The new Egyptian government, to be formed once President Mubarak steps down, is well-advised to be extremely careful about the Turkish, Iranian, and Israeli positions.

For one thing, it would be extremely hard to replicate Turkey’s secularism or Iran’s religious guardianship. And the bigger problem with Turkey and Iran these days is the two governments’ prevalent authoritarianism. It’s a much bigger problem in Iran since the controversial presidential elections of 2009.

Of course, Turkey is not doing substantially better. Mr. Erdoğan takes a “holier-than-thou” attitude but his recent policies aren’t that impressive. For one thing, Mr. Erdoğan is doing his best to secure the support of religiously conservative Turks by deepening the religious-secular divide in Turkey. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has turned to be just as incompetent as any previous Turkish leader when it comes to solving the Kurdish question. Why would Egyptians want to replace one political regime producing an incompetent autocrat for other regimes that produce incompetent autocrats?

As for Israeli concerns, while Egyptian mediation between the Jewish state and HAMAS is a noble undertaking, the new government in Cairo should stop acting like an enabler for Israel’s excesses in Palestine. This is not to suggest (unlike Mr. Khamenei) that Egypt should start saber-rattling with Israel at the earliest convenience. On the contrary, doing the Arab and Muslim world’s bidding against Israel during the Cold War was just as futile as doing Israel’s bidding in the Arab and Muslim world today. Egypt has no use for either alternative.

In the final analysis, in transitioning to a new political order, Egyptian leaders should take nothing into consideration except their country’s advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the motor of Egypt’s current transition is a non-violent populace. Furthermore, the opposition boasts internationally respected figures such as Amr Mousa and Mohammed El-Baradei. Finally, the increase in foreign direct investment in the past few years (it almost reached $10 billion last year) means that international entrepreneurs consider Egypt to be a good place to do business.

Unfortunately, Egypt’s structural weaknesses far outweigh its strengths: state control over the economy; a corrupt bureaucracy (a natural result of the previous problem); lack of upward social mobility (Presidents Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak had all come from humble backgrounds and had risen in society through education – no Egyptian born to modest circumstances has similar prospects today); 60 years of authoritarian government and lack of experience in democracy.

Addressing these problems should be at the top of the new Egyptian government’s agenda. Not the concerns of Turkey, Iran, or Israel. If Ankara, Tehran, and Jerusalem want to help Egypt, they can do so by minding their own business.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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The Crazy (and Naïve) Oracle: Some Wishful Thinking for 2011

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

January 7, 2011

A favorite story that I like to tell my students goes as follows:

One day in 1928, friends of the smartest man in Munich asked him to predict the city’s future. “In 1933,” the man starts, “the city, like the rest of the country, is run by the thugs who had tried to carry out a coup five years ago.” His friends are not impressed. “But ten years later,” the man continues optimistically, “Munich will be the leading cultural and commercial center of the German Empire stretching from the North Pole to North Africa.” Joyful, his friends ask him to say more. “Five years later, however, Munich, together with the rest of Germany, will lie in ruins.” The comment displeases his audience.

“Oh, don’t look so depressed,” the man goes on, “by 1953, we would have rebuilt Munich with American aid, and, by 1963, more than half of Munich residents will be so well-off that they’ll own boxes that show movies and pictures like in the cinemas.” His friends, bewildered, then hear the most shocking bit: “Look, we’ll end up having so many jobs in Munich by 1963 that we’ll have to bring in hundreds of thousands of workers from other countries to maintain our prosperity.”

The man’s friends, of course, lock him up in a lunatic asylum, even though events would prove him correct.

In the same spirit as the crazy wise man, here are my predictions for 2011:

–          The international community finally understands the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan and shifts its attention to rebuilding the two countries’ socioeconomic infrastructure with long-term project and not “quick impact” ideasthat are of little use. Building schools, hospitals, dams and roads seems to cost a lot less than guns and bullets.

–          Realizing that its own well-being can only go hand-in-hand with its neighbors’ security, the Pakistani government shows greater resolve to curtail insurgent activity on the Afghan border. The security situation in both countries shows marked improvement.

–          The Iranian government and the P5+1 group start making real progress on the nuclear question. Iran grants the IAEA full access to all of its nuclear facilities; the UN Security Council begins lifting the sanctions. American and Iranian diplomats lay the groundwork for a direct meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Re-establishing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran seems on the horizon.

–          Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally ends the coalition with the far-right Avigdor Lieberman and forms a new coalition with the centrist Kadima. Netanyahu’s move convinces Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to restart direct talks. Both parties show unprecedented flexibility with respect to sensitive issues: Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, and the return of Palestinian refugees. Progress with the Palestinians encourages the Israeli government to renew peace talks with Syria.

–          The last U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq as scheduled. With American forces out, the Obama administration can allocate more resources for economic recovery and reduces the federal deficit. The U.S. economy finally starts to improve, followed by the rest of the world. Republicans and Democrats in Congress begin to address some of America’s most pressing problems, much to everyone’s surprise.

–          In Turkey, the PKK declares a permanent ceasefire against Turkey and agrees to turn over its arms to the United Nations. In turn, the AKP government, with support from CHP, passes a law giving full amnesty to the organization’s rank-and-file and conditional amnesty to high-ranking officials in Northern Iraq. With the violence coming to an end in Southeast Turkey, democratic standards improve and the region’s economy begins to boom.

–          North and South Korea tone down their rhetoric and mutually suspend all military exercises. The North Korean leadership, aware of their country’s despondent situation, begins talks with its southern brothers to end the country’s now-58-year-old division.

(Other actual and potential conflict zones can be added to this list with similar “predictions”: Bosnia-Herzegovina; China-Taiwan; Congo; the Ivory Coast; Kosovo; Northern Mexico; Sudan.)

Do such predictions make me sound crazy? Of course they do.

But if you’re going to lock me up like the man from Munich, bear in mind that if a good deal of these prophecies do not work out, not many of us will survive to tell me that I was wrong.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com). 

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The Forest Fire in Israel and Political Lessons From Mother Nature

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

December 6, 2010

Mother Nature has reminded us of several things with the forest fire that consumed northern Israel last week: Given our temporary residence on this planet, our differences – whether religious, sectarian, or national – are quite trivial. Another lesson is that nature knows no boundaries: Given the fire’s scope (nearly 50km2 – about 12,000 acres – of forest are now in ashes) and its potential impact on the ecological balance, most countries in the Middle East will probably face negative consequences as well.

Although I’m not certain whether politicians in the region will learn those lessons, there is hope. Upon hearing about the disaster, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered two fire-extinguishing planes to be sent to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned his Turkish counterpart to thank Turkey for being the first country to help Israel. Mr. Erdoğan, in response, referred to his “humane and religious duty,” despite maintaining his adversarial stance against Israel.

Over the weekend, reports came out that Turkish and Israeli officials had met in Geneva and journalists began to discuss whether Turkey and Israel can improve their relations. But we need to understand that such an improvement is easier said than done. For one thing, Mr. Erdoğan reiterated his government’s position that Israel has to apologize for its navy’s attack on an international flotilla led by the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara last summer and pay reparations to the families of the 9 Turkish civilians killed by Israeli commandoes. Interestingly, Israeli officials, who had vehemently refused to apologize last summer, have not publicly rebuffed the Turkish government’s request this time.

In order for this disaster to move us forward to peace, we need to set some “thinking points” to guide the Turks, the Israelis, and, of course, the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “humane and religious duty” explanation shows that the Turkish leader doesn’t “simply hate Israel,” as a U.S. embassy report on Wikileaks claims. In fact, by sending the fire-extinguishing planes to Israel, one of Mr. Erdoğan’s unknown qualities has surfaced: the ability to rise above the fray and acting in a cool-headed manner.

Mr. Erdoğan has to put that quality to the forefront and learn to control his temper. Since Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008 (Operation Cast Lead) and increasingly after the raid on the Mavi Marmara last summer, Mr. Erdoğan’s vocabulary, especially his liberal use of the word “murderer,” has undermined his case. Especially the Western media focused on how the Turkish Prime Minister criticized Israel rather than why. In other words, rather than strengthen his case, Mr. Erdoğan’s harsh rhetoric undermined it and may have even forced Western countries to tacitly support Israel.

Many people around the world (including this author) shared – and continue to share – Mr. Erdoğan’s outrage over Cast Lead, the attack on the Mavi Marmara, and the Netanyahu government’s foot-dragging with the peace process. But offending 7 million Israelis for their navy’s mistake is unfair and unwise, especially when Israeli intellectuals have spoken out against both Cast Lead and Mavi Marmara. In the near future, Turkey will be one of the few countries that can help to convince the Israelis that withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories would lead to peace for the Palestinians. Why not regain that positive influence by speaking more softly?

To that end, the Turkish side should get HAMAS to release Corporal Gilad Shalit, who had been captured by the Palestinian group in July 2006. In order to punish HAMAS and Hezbollah, Israel had attacked both Gaza and Lebanon that summer but had failed to rescue Cpl. Shalit or deter the militant groups. In fact, later events have demonstrated that Israel’s security has only deteriorated.

The release of Cpl. Shalit would be a major symbolic achievement for all sides. Turkey would be able to show (and not only to Israel but to the international community as well), that its relationship with HAMAS can produce positive results. Furthermore, releasing the young Israeli soldier could change the international community’s perception of HAMAS for the better. And it will give a chance to help the people of besieged Gaza rebuild their lives.

Most importantly, Corporal Shalit’s release can change the perceptions of many Israelis, who see his prolonged captivity as a justification for Israel’s heavy-handed response to regional challenges and their anti-Turkish sentiments.

In order to improve Turkish-Israeli relations, the Israeli people and their government need to understand the actual cause of Mr. Erdoğan’s anger. In the lead-up to Cast Lead, the Turkish Prime Minister, his circle of advisers, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry had come very close to successfully mediating proximity talks between Israel and Syria and were on the verge of a diplomatic breakthrough. In December 2008, Mr. Erdoğan was expecting the then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s response to Syrian President Bashar Asad’s peace proposals. The response came in the form of the infamous attack on Gaza, which probably made Mr. Erdoğan feel like an idiot.

Beyond empathy, the Israeli side needs to consider apologizing – or at least expressing regret for the events on Mavi Marmara. And paying reparations to the victims’ families would not be the end of the world for Jerusalem. In Turkish, there is a saying: “To apologize is a sign of magnanimity.” Just as securing Cpl. Shalit’s release can improve Israeli perceptions of Turkey, agreeing to address the grievances of the Mavi Marmara victims can improve Turkish perceptions of Israel.

Finally, and most importantly, Israel has to start acting seriously if it wants peace and not isolation: That means lifting the siege of Gaza completely in the event that Cpl. Shalit is released. That means halting settlement construction in the West Bank – regardless of whether they are “natural” or not. That means, overall, that Israel’s security is fundamentally tied to a viable state, which can only come about if Israel retreats from an overwhelming majority of the territories it captured in 1967.

These things are going to be tough for the three sides to accept. But the fires of rage in our hearts are destroying the beautiful place that is the Middle East. It’s time to grow new forests in the region: planted by foresight and wisdom, its roots watered by peace, tolerance, and prosperity.

That would be an appropriate way to thank Mother Nature.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East: “It Couldn’t Get Any Worse Than This”

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

June 14, 2010

A few months ago, after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s public humiliation of Turkish ambassador Oğuz Çelikkol, conversations in Turkey rang with the sentence “Turkish-Israeli relations couldn’t get any worse than this.”

Then came the fateful morning of May 31. The Israeli Navy attacked an international convoy of six ships and nearly 700 activists carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, which ended with the death of nine Turkish citizens (including a teenager with dual American citizenship). Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdoğan called the event “state terrorism” while the normally calm and composed Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, labeled the raid an “act of piracy” in a vitriolic speech at the United Nations Security Council. The Israeli government denied the allegations of massacre and defended itself by releasing videos of Turkish activists allegedly attacking Israeli commandoes with clubs and lead pipes. Furthermore, Israel has stated that it won’t cooperate with an international panel investigating the events of May 31.

Many wonder, once again, if the tense atmosphere between Turkey and Israel could get any worse. People in Turkey and around the world are understandably livid over the Israeli Navy’s bloody operation and the Netanyahu administration’s less-than-persuasive response to the raid. And, at the moment, there’s talk about Mr. Erdoğan forcing his way into Gaza on a military convoy and a former Israeli general suggesting that Israel ought to “sink it.” It’s uncertain if a majority of Turks and Israelis (and other Middle Easterners) wouldn’t mind seeing their armed forces “slug it out.”

That’s a fact too frightening to even contemplate.

So, how do we pull the Middle East out of this predicament? A combination of near- and long-term solutions should look like this:

–         The international community’s responsibility: An international peace-keeping mission must be dispatched to Gaza in order to lift the Israeli blockade and address the civilian catastrophe in the area. This international force should not only be physically larger than its counterpart in Southern Lebanon (which has about 12,000 troops on the ground) but it should also have a wider mandate in maintaining peace and order in the Palestinian enclave. It should have complete authority over the land and sea borders of Gaza in order to make sure that HAMAS doesn’t get any military supplies, thus preventing Israel from using HAMAS as a pretext for future incursions. Similarly, the development program for the West Bank, already taking place under the leadership of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, must be accelerated through international aid and investment.

–         U.S. responsibility: The United States has long been perceived as Israel’s enabler, especially because it bankrolls nearly 20% of Israel’s military budget every year. In order to change the current deadlock, America has to do a very important thing, aside from supporting the international community’s reconstruction efforts: Impress upon Jerusalem that Israel’s security would be best served only with the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Of course, the Obama administration already knows that. Furthermore, with an extremist government in Jerusalem (the hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has relatively moderate stance in the six-party coalition), getting Israel to agree to the formation of a Palestinian state will be easier said than done. In fact, just as previous Israeli governments that have used pro-Israel groups in Washington to avoid making hard choices and heaping the blame on the Arabs, it is only sensible to expect the same from the current Israeli government.

But the times are changing. Israeli unease over Iran’s nuclear program is understandably mounting at a time when American officials are becoming increasingly upset with Israeli intransigence over the Palestinian question. At his testimony to the U.S. Senate in March 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Central Asia and the Middle East, acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was undermining U.S. interests in the region. Washington needs to remind Jerusalem that it needs American backing against Tehran just as much as Washington needs Jerusalem to move on the Palestinian front.

–         Israel’s responsibility: Many people in the Arab and Muslim world – including the Palestinians – do not want to drive Israel to the sea. Those days are gone. Syria was on the verge of agreeing to the basic framework of a peace treaty with Israel right before Israel started the Gaza War in December 2008. In the run-up to that turning point, “the terrible Turks” had mediated the indirect talks between Jerusalem and Damascus. And earlier in 2008, HAMAS leader, Khaled Meshaal, had told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that HAMAS recognized Israel’s right to live in peace and that it would agree to a 10-year truce if Israel would withdraw from the Occupied Territories.

In order for the Middle East to move forward, all nations in the region – but especially the Israelis – have to elevate their thinking. At the Arab League summit of March 2002, with Saudi backing, Arab governments agreed to the “land for peace” principle. Arab governments have pledged to recognize Israel once it extends the same courtesy to the Palestinian state. The ball’s on Israel’s court. It has to decide whether it wants to start a new era by agreeing to integrate with other Middle Eastern nations or continue its behavior as a residue of Western colonialism.

–         Turkish and Arab responsibility: Although there are quite a few people who don’t mind the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East, there are many radicals who do. And because of that fact, a good portion of public opinion in the West – especially in the United States – supports, or, at least, tacitly endorses Israel.

In this context, the Turkish and Arab objective should be to change that distorted view of the conflict. These actors ought to impress upon HAMAS that, in the long-term, violence – especially against Israeli civilians – doesn’t pay off. HAMAS’s uncompromising attitude obviously puts the Palestinian people and other Middle Eastern countries in a bind. In the face of Israeli occupation of their lands, Palestinians are left with few options: either acquiesce to Fatah’s extremely unpopular method of working with Israel or follow HAMAS’s way of resisting the Israeli occupation by any means necessary.

But this is a dilemma that had complicated Israeli-Palestinian relations in the past. From the mid-1960s through the late 1980s, the PLO had refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. In fact, PLO did not formally recognize Israel until the conclusion of the secret negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords of September 1993.

Countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia need to develop Khaled Mashaal’s announcement of April 2008 that the Islamist group would agree to a 10-year truce in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

A final word on Turkey: In light of recent events and the fallout in Turkish-Israeli relations, Prime Minister Erdoğan should question whether his country’s interests – and the interests of the region – are served by his constant bickering with Israel. After all, down the road, Turkey, together with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is the best candidate to mediate peace between Israel and every other Arab and Muslim country.

Failing to end the Arab-Israeli conflict prevents the Middle East from reaching its full potential. Before more dangerous events sinks the region in a deeper quagmire, Middle Eastern countries and the international community need to take preventive measures. History teaches us that things could – and often do – get worse.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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