Emanuele Ottolenghi at Standpoint, on the new Islamist Turkey, the Kurds, and the view from Jerusalem:
Turkey weathered the storm of Saddam Hussein's fall and the rise of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. For nearly a decade now this stable Kurdish enclave has already been de facto, if not de jure, a state. But this legal fiction has kept the lid on the pressure cooker, thanks to the wisdom of Kurdish leaders who understood the need to work with Turkey and shy away from maximalist tendencies. Turkey too accepted that it could live with an autonomous Kurdistan, as long as the latter did not stoke the fires of Kurdish separatism on the Turkish side of the border. Kurdish aspirations and Turkish anxieties were put off for another day. But now, with Syria's Kurds suddenly able to join their Iraqi brethren by extricating themselves from the disintegrating Assad regime, that day may be about to dawn. If the millions of Kurds who live in eastern Turkey and do not particularly love the Atatürk legacy were to stir, this fragile truce would go up in flames.
And here is the irony. The day that Erdogan left Turkey to go to Egypt in an effort to assert his role as regional leader, alongside Egypt's new Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, in a high-profile bid to mediate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, he proved how incapable the region's new forces are of confronting reality.
Referring to Hamas's barrage of rockets, which hit Israel hundreds of times over years before provoking its reaction, Erdogan announced that Israel's response stood on "fabricated grounds". Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, also decried Israel's efforts to defend its civilian population as mere electioneering. While these words may echo a genuine and popular sentiment in Turkey and across the Muslim world, they betray a double standard that Turkey refuses to acknowledge.
Turkey's hand with its Kurdish insurgency has hardly been lighter than Israel's with Hamas. Turkey has routinely used overwhelming military force in a decades-long conflict that has left more victims than all the Israeli-Palestinian confrontations since 1948 combined. And its recognition of the Kurdish problem is light years behind Israel's basic recognition of Palestinian national aspirations.
Toying with Palestinian nationalism has been the favoured pastime of spoiled Western intellectuals and third world pied pipers of all kinds. But standing for the downtrodden abroad while engaging in oppression at home is not going to make things better for Turkey.
That Palestine still mobilises the masses in a way that Kurdish suffering or Syrian fratricide fail to do is beside the point. The opposing national claims of Israelis and Palestinians have largely been managed for the better part of the last 65 years. The combustible mix of national grievances, civil war, regional turmoil, regime collapse all around and refugees at the gates could plunge Turkey and the entire area into an inferno that no amount of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed has ever precipitated.
Yet, ever the opportunist, Erdogan has learned fast that stoking anti-Israel sentiment is a sure way to gain popularity, both at home and abroad.
For Erdogan this is a great opportunity, since Turkey's Islamic credentials make Ankara an appealing alternative for political patronage to both Washington and Tehran. No doubt, there will be rivalries—Egypt is not keen to let Turkey lead the newly-formed Sunni Muslim Brotherhood pack—but Turkey feels it can find a new place in the sun with its new Ottomanism and its careful distancing from its Western alliances. And so the brief but intense love affair between Israel and Turkey is consigned to history, even as Israeli-Turkish bilateral trade continues to grow.
With Israel and Hamas locked again in a deadly struggle, the initial results for the Arab Spring are in and they are not what they promised to be 18 months ago....