Turkish President Tells Bibi: Time for You to Adapt to a New Political Climate

by James M. Wall

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul (right) has stern words of advice for Bibi Netanyahu. He told Israel’s Prime Minister that the Arab revolution in the Middle East is aimed directly at the state of Israel. The advice came in a New York Times column by President Gul:

The wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa is of historic significance equal to that of the revolutions of 1848 and 1989 in Europe. The peoples of the region, without exception, revolted not only in the name of universal values but also to regain their long-suppressed national pride and dignity.

But whether these uprisings lead to democracy and peace or to tyranny and conflict will depend on forging a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and a broader Israeli-Arab peace.

The plight of the Palestinians has been a root cause of unrest and conflict in the region and is being used as a pretext for extremism in other corners of the world. Israel, more than any other country, will need to adapt to the new political climate in the region.

But it need not fear; the emergence of a democratic neighborhood around Israel is the ultimate assurance of the country’s security.

A Muslim president of a predominantly Muslim nation, Gul also has advice for the President of the United States:

Moreover, it is my firm conviction that the United States has a long-overdue responsibility to side with international law and fairness when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The international community wants the United States to act as an impartial and effective mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, just as it did a decade ago. Securing a lasting peace in the Middle East is the greatest favor Washington can do for Israel.

Since Israel’s Occupation is the “root cause” of unrest in the region, Turkey wants Israel to act now to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  And he expects the US to be a helpful partner in dealing with that “root cause” of unrest. 

No historical parallel is ever exact. But parallels from history are very much in Gul’s thinking.

The 1848 revolution in Europe, which began with the French Revolution, spread across Europe, taking different forms and moving at different speeds. In 1989, the uprisings in Europe began with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The current Arab uprising began in Tunisia and Egypt.  Now it has erupted in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. As was the case in both 1848 and 1989, the 2011 uprising is having, and will continue to have, mixed results and follow different paths.

The Syrian military, for example, was reported on Saturday to have killed more than 120 protestors, bringing harsh criticism from the US amid increased suppression by Syian authorities. In contrast, the president of Yemen agreed, under certain conditions, to step down following weeks of street protests.  A New York Times story from Cairo reported:

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, agreed on Saturday to leave power after 32 years of autocratic rule, according to a top Yemeni official, but only if the opposition agrees to a list of conditions, including that he and his family be granted immunity.

Opposition leaders said they were prepared to accept most of the terms of the deal, which both they and a Yemeni official said would establish a coalition government with members of the opposition and ruling party. The president would turn over authority to the vice president.

Bruce Riedel, a former longtime CIA officer and now a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, wrote an analysis on the end of the police state in the Middle East, for The Daily Beast:

The revolutions that are sweeping across the Arab world this spring have many different causes and each will have its own outcome, but they all have one thing in common: Arabs are demanding the end of the police-state system that has misruled them for over a half century. They want freedom and accountability.

The U.S. was a big stakeholder in the police-state system, known in Arabia as the mukhabarat states (the Arabic word for secret police), but it now needs to help build legitimate accountable governments.

The Palestinian Authority has chosen its own method by which to revolt against the Israeli mukhabarat. The PA administers a people, but not as a state. The method it has chosen is to create a state governmental structure in anticipation of future statehood.

Support for a Palestinian state has swept through the member states in the United Nations General Assembly, the world body which will vote in September on whether to admit Palestine into the UN.

The Obama White House appears to be divided on how the US should proceed to cope with the impending UN vote. The New York Times Helene Cooper describes the internal US divide as “bizarre”.  For three months, she writes, White House officials have discussed the important question: Who should go first with a peace proposal: Bibi or Barack?

Apparently, according to Cooper, the President and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believe “the time has come for Mr. Obama to make a major address on the region’s turmoil, including the upheaval in the Arab world.”  Obama and Clinton appear to favor an Obama speech that would  “propose a new plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians”.

That option is “opposed by Dennis B. Ross, the president’s senior adviser on the Middle East.” Ross is known to be close to AIPAC, and is also close to Bibi Netanyahu, who continues to favor “negotiations” to resolve the future status of a Palestinian state.

Republicans in the US Congress have invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to the combined House and Senate membership during the week of May 22, when the Prime Minister will be in Washington to address the annual gathering of AIPAC.  He has accepted, which has caused consternation in the White House.

In speaking before friendly audiences in both the AIPAC Policy Conference and the US Congress, Netanyahu is expected to adopt a reconciling tone. At the same time, he will no doubt stick to the Israeli hard line position that the only track acceptable to Israel is the one which would resolve Israel’s differences with the Palestinians through “negotiations” between the two parties.

The trouble with the “negotiation” track is that the Palestinians have long known that “to negotiate” with Israel, is futile. The warden does not negotiate with his prisoners, except, possibly, to improve their cuisine.

Ross is supported in endorsing the “negotiations” track by former White House official Aaron David Miller. Now out of the White House and nestled inside the warmth of a Washington NGO, where he can speak more candidly, Miller wrote in the Washington Post:

In almost two decades of working on Arab-Israeli negotiations as a State Department adviser and negotiator, I’ve come up with more than my fair share of dumb ideas. But the notion Palestinians are cooking up, for U.N. action on Palestinian statehood this fall, takes dumb to a new level.

Yet another resolution won’t deliver Palestinians a state or even bring them closer to one. The result will be the opposite of what the Palestinians want: forcing the United States to oppose Palestinians’ efforts, energizing Congress to restrict much-needed assistance to Palestinian institution-building, and probably prompting Israel to do very real (and dumb) things on the ground.

The “who speaks first” debate will be an interesting one to follow. Ross and Miller are staff level operatives but they carry Bibi’s water for him, which means that they also speak for AIPAC.

Meanwhile, while the debate rages over how best to deal with the US favored ally in the Middle East, President Obama announced that he would be sending drones into Libya.  

What is a drone? The picture at right is that of a MQ-1B Predator unmanned aircraft system, called “a drone” for short. The MQ-18 is shown taking off for a training mission at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

Drones are sent to targeted areas halfway around the world. They receive their flying instructions from Air Force personnel sitting at computers at Creech.

On Holy Thursday, April 9, 2009, Catholic priest, peace activist, lecturer and author John Dear, and 12 of his colleagues, were arrested for trespassing while praying, on the grounds of Creech Air Force Base in a protest action against the use of drones.

Kathy Kelly, who is from Chicago, is well known as an anti-war protestor for her many years of activism in war zones. She was among the Creech 13.  For more on the work of Father John Dear, click here.

Two years later, on Holy Thursday, April 21, 2011, the 13 were found guilty of trespassing. In a posting he wrote for Truthout,  Dear explains what inspired the group to go to the Nevada base.

My friends and I have tried every legal means possible to stop our government from its terrorist, drone bombing attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, and so we journeyed to the drone headquarters at Creech AFB near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday to kneel in prayer and beg for an end to the bombings. This nonviolent intervention is determined to be criminal – not the regular drone bombing attacks on children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The guilty verdict was handed down as President Obama was authorizing the US Air Force to expand drone attacks into Libya.

How sensitive to civilian casualties has drone warfare been in Pakistan? The New York Times reported on Good Friday:

An American drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said, a strike against militants that appeared to signify unyielding pressure by the United States on Pakistan’s military amid increasing public and private opposition to such strikes. (emphasis added).

Further down in the story, the Times adds that among those 23 people were women and children.

Why is Obama using drones in Libya “amid increasing public and private opposition to such strikes”?

When President Obama organized the NATO air strikes to help the Libyan rebels, he cited “humanitarian grounds”. He had support from the “humanitarians” in his administration, and in the progressive media, most notably, the highly respected, Middle Eastern scholar Juan Cole.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that in any military action, the goal is to kill “the enemy”. The use of drones guarantees that many of those deaths will be civilians. 

Many Americans do not like the fact that the US is now engaged in three armed conflicts against Arab states. The protestors who were arrested at Creech AFB are part of what should become a growing tide of resentment against President Obama for his failure to take action to alleviate, in President Gul’s words, “the plight of the Palestinians”, which is the “root cause of unrest and conflict in the region”.

Before Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to Washington in May to be cheered by his friends and supporters in AIPAC and in the US Congress, President Obama should say to his Israeli counterpart, “You are running a democratic government. It is time for you to lead that government to recognize the wisdom in President Gul’s call for you to forge ‘a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and a broader Israeli-Arab peace’.”

He should also tell Netanyahu that Israel’s present treatment of the Palestinian people is harmful not only to the Palestinians, but also to Israel and to the US.

Obama should also remind Netanyahu of the closing words of encouragement, warning and admonition, that President Gul delivered to Israel:

It will be almost impossible for Israel to deal with the emerging democratic and demographic currents in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. Turkey, conscious of its own responsibility, stands ready to help.

The picture at top is of Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul. It is from Getty Images. The picture of Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is from the web site, Top News In Law. The picture of the drone is by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr., US Air Force.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to Turkish President Tells Bibi: Time for You to Adapt to a New Political Climate

  1. Bill Gepford says:

    Well done, Jim. What is Obama afraid of? That question has to be answered, when applied to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Or there will never be peace in the Middle East. Israel’s attitude is always backed by the president and Congress. It is very clear that Isreal does not want to negotiate a peace treaty with the Palestinians because they want control over all the land between the Jordan and the Med. Sea (as well as the Golan Heights). The Congress and apparently every president over the past fifty years supports that position. Why? Why do we operate out of Fear rather than Compassion for all who live in that region? Answer that question and we may be on the road to permanent peace.

  2. Judy Neunuebel says:

    Gratitude to the Turks. Thank you for this excellent article which I’m posting on Facebook.

  3. Awad Paul Sifri says:

    Thanks for raising several important points in your article.
    I vote for President Obama’s offering a “US Peace Plan” before Netanyahu bypasses the President and goes straight to a largely corrupted Congress, whenever it comes to Israel. Obama will have the potential of regaining the hearts and souls of Araby and safeguard US interests. If, on the other hand, Netanyahu presents his colonial Plan first, Congress will support him blindly and it will make it difficult for Obama to contradict, both, Congress and the Israel Lobby. I wonder if Obama has set up Turkey to carry on with the “Peace process”, simply because he already realizes the futility of fighting this dangerous Lobby. Israel will grab any hint of re-instating the previous friendly relations with Turkey and will go along to bla-bla, while building facts on the ground. I pray to God that the Palestinians go for UN recognition, regardless of the US position. At this stage, listening to more promises from the two Zionist States brings “Dumb” to its lowest level, ever. Jesus Is Risen. We shall overcome.

  4. Mart Bailey says:

    We are seeing, I believe, another example of American confusion. There’s far too much waiting to see if a consensus emerges before the President acts on the courage of his convictions. We are also seeing, while we watch, another example of the United States stepping back, or slipping back, or sitting back into second or third place in the world. We may actually be watching the end of United States creative, courageous, global leadership.

  5. Fred says:

    To try and answer Bill’s question about why the US does not have a policy based on compassion (and human rights, international law or justice, I might add), is that our Congress has been bought by AIPAC and the Israeli Lobby on this issue. The only way to change things, is to follow AIPAC’s successful example of becoming a one issue organization, and supporting Congressmen who support justice and equal rights, rather than apartheid and religious supremacy. Until we do that, we will continue to have a government that puts Israel’ s interest above out own, and continues to support the oppression of Christians and Moslems, who are continually being pushed out of their homeland by a nation, that is not interested in sharing the land, or in equal rights for non Jews.
    The US bears great responsibility for this ongoing tragedy, and there will be no end in sight as long as our Congress continues to slavishly follow what AIPAC demands because of it’s well funded and single issue approach–what’s good for Israel.

  6. Audrey Burdett says:

    Our current president has little world experience to withstand the strong Israeli coalition here in this country to do the correct thing about Israel. We have financed Israel’s army for so many years free, gratis, and continue to do so with no realization of how we are responsible for the ethnic cleansing that the Palestinians are experiencing. My anger does me or them no good. Our hands are tied.

  7. Tony Litwinko says:

    Why does President Obama not change his course? Like Harry Truman, he’s a neophyte statesman with no essential courage who wants to be re-elected to his anointed position. This is not the least example of his cowardice (or perhaps the better term might be venality). He has in fact been solidifying the anti-democratic gains of his predecessor. The latest instance is his judgment that Bradley Manning is guilty of breaking the law in a “nation of laws” long before Manning has even been charged, not to mention found guilty. You can modify Sinclair Lewis’s prediction that when when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and holding a cross–it will also be riding on a Democratic Party donkey. I don’t have much hope for this President to take seriously the words of his Cairo speech or the moral expectation of his Nobel Peace Prize–which, if he had had any courage or honesty at all, he would have politely and sincerely refused.

  8. Patricia Pynchon says:

    Alas, Obama is afraid to act upon principle, he plays up to those he thinks powerful and elite. He has constantly appointed aides and heads of departments who are close to AIPAC,– he does not seem to think for himself, or manifest any of the Christian principles and feeling he must have absorbed from Jeremiah Wright.
    I understand that during AIPAC’S convention in DC there will be a parallel convention of those who believe in justice for the Palestinians, such as JVP, J-Street, Jews against the occupation, CFMEP, etc. I hope they will confront AIPAC, and let congress people know that as long as we do not insist on ending the occupation and creating a state of Palestine, for the Palestinians, we are becoming further implicated in a terrible immoral crime. Israel was founded on the crime of pushing people off their land, and those congress people who do not insist on justice for the PaLestinians are also criminals.

  9. Harris Fawell says:

    Let us hope that our President will have the fortitude to tell Netanahu the truth that Israel’s present treatment of the Palestinian people is not only harmful to the Palestinian people but also to the best interests of the American people in fighting the war of terrorism. When will Congress wake up to that simple truth? Keep up your fine work. Harris Fawell

  10. Noushin Framke says:

    Politics do indeed make strange bedfellows: this Armenian is willing to end her boycott of Turkish goods if Turkey keeps up its pressure on Israel and America to play fair…

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