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Modern Turkey Comes to an End

April 20 2017

In a referendum on Sunday, Turkish citizens approved a series of amendments to their constitution that abolish the position of prime minister and grant near-dictatorial powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Islamist AKP party. Steven A. Cook sees the results as spelling the end of the Turkish Republic created in 1921 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:

Turkey’s Islamists have long venerated the Ottoman period [that ended in 1921]. In doing so, they implicitly expressed thinly veiled contempt for the Turkish Republic. . . When . . . Erdogan and his predecessor Abdullah Gul broke with [the Islamist old guard] and created the AKP, they jettisoned its anti-Western rhetoric, committed themselves to advancing Turkey’s European Union candidacy, and consciously crafted an image of themselves as the Muslim analogues to Europe’s Christian Democrats. Even so, they retained traditional Islamist ideas about the role of Turkey in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world.

Thinkers within the AKP . . . harbored reservations about the compatibility of Western political and social institutions with their predominantly Muslim society. But the AKP leadership never acted upon this idea, choosing instead to undermine aspects of Ataturk’s legacy within the framework of the republic.

That is no longer the case. . . .

With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the [1921 constitution] and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot. It turns out that Erdogan, who would wield power not vested in Turkish leaders since the sultans, actually is a neo-Ottoman.

Erdogan’s ambition helped propel Turkey to this point. But unlike the caricature of a man who seeks power for the sake of power, the Turkish leader has a vision for the transformation of Turkey in which the country is more prosperous, more powerful, and more Muslim, meaning conservative and religious values should shape the behavior and expectations of Turks as they make their way in life. . . . Erdogan needs the legal cover to pursue his broader transformative agenda. And the only way it seems that he can accomplish that is by making himself something akin to a sultan.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Islamism, Politics & Current Affairs, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

The Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution