Editor’s Note: In an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, Ömer Taşpınar discusses the greater implications of strained relations between Turkey and Israel, for both the United States and stability in the Middle East.
Diane Rehm: The Turkish Prime Minister is again calling for an international investigation. What’s the latest that’s going on here?
Ömer Taşpınar: Well I think the Turkish government knew that this could happen. They certainly were not looking for a situation where nine Turkish citizens would be killed, but the Gaza issue resonates very deeply in Turkish public opinion. The Turkish narrative is one of basically seeing Hamas as the victim, because Hamas won the elections in the eyes of the Turkish government, Hamas was denied a chance to run, it was not given the chance that the Fatah, the secular Palestinian group, was given, so the prime minister, the Turkish public opinion, sees basically the Palestinian issue through the lenses of Hamas. And in that sense, I think the Turkish prime minister, the Turkish Foreign Service, knew that something bad could happen, that this would put basically the blockade of Gaza on the world agenda. It would not be so bad at a time when everyone wanted to talk about Iran, especially in Washington, so it changed kind of the dynamics, and in that sense I think Turks knew that this could happen.
Rehm: So the embargo on Gaza changed things, Ömer?
Taşpınar: Before the embargo in Gaza, I think the Israeli operation against Gaza changed the perception of Turkey. Israel was perceived as using disproportionate force. Turks saw this through the lenses of news channels like Al-Jazeera so there is a very strong sense of identification with the plight of the Gazans, and this issue resonates in Turkey, and the prime minister of Turkey basically comes from a Muslim background, a Muslim brotherhood background, and he to a certain degree identifies his political party with the way Hamas could evolve in the future. If we give Hamas a chance to become a normal party, he believes Hamas could change, could evolve. In that sense, that’s why he’s so angry about what’s going on in the Palestinian territories.
Listen to the full interview at thedianerehmshow.org »
[The economy is] an issue where [Rouhani] has a greater chance of avoiding real gridlock within the system itself. It’s not nearly as dangerous as taking on issues of political prisoners or trying to open up the political space to those who feel marginalized.