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Editor's Note | Winter 2020

Through a wide range of commentaries and articles, this issue of Insight Turkey aims to bring to its readers a comprehensive framework on the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian question. Whether there will be a deal to this problem remains a difficult question to be answered. Currently one thing is clear, that the plan declared by the Trump Administration, which was welcomed by Israel and some of its Arab allies, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, assures the Palestinian people the continuation of their century long ordeal.

Editor's Note Winter 2020

The Israeli-Palestinian question has been at the heart of Middle Eastern politics for the last 80 years. Although the Palestinian’s land has been one of the main subjects of international politics since the beginning of the 20th century, it was the unusual creation of the Israeli state in 1948 that led to many regional crises. Since then the Israeli state has been the instigator of many regional wars, continuous expansionism, discrimination, and violation of international law and basic human rights. Millions of Palestinians were forced to leave their country and those who preferred to stay were deprived of their rights. A special type of apartheid has been implemented by the Israeli state.

All regional states and most global powers have been involved with this problem, which is not only between the aggressive Israeli nationalism and the defensive Palestinian nationalism, but also a conflict between the Israeli state and the Arab countries, a civilizational dispute between a pro-Israeli coalition and Muslim countries and a war that symbolizes the struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. A number of international organizations have passed different resolutions offering solutions to the problem. Among them is the Islamic Cooperation Organization which was established following the many attacks against sacred places, notably the city of al-Quds and al-Aqsa Mosque, in Palestine.

The international community represented by the United Nations (UN) has been calling on the Israeli state for decades to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories and to abide by the international rules and principles. As the UN resolutions, international law, and international public opinion expect, and Palestinians also aspire for, Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories, namely East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip and recognize an independent Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. However, global powers, especially the United States, have not allowed the UN to force the Israeli state to move out from the occupied territories and to restore peace in the region. In other words, the Palestinian people and Muslim nations have long witnessed the continuous Israeli fait accompli, the never-ending Palestinian suffering, the weakness of the Muslim Middle Eastern countries, and the indifference of the global powers.

Israel continues to violate not only the rights of self-determination but also basic human rights for Palestinians. As one of the indications of this inhumane policy, the Gaza Strip has been under continuous Israeli blockade and attacks since 2006. Israel has been attacking the Gaza Strip and the West Bank intermittently, to expand its territories in order to establish new illegal Jewish settlements and squash any hope for Palestinian statehood. Israel’s large-scale attacks against the Gaza Strip in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2019 have made conditions in Palestine unlivable. The latest attack in 2019 stopped with yet another cease-fire, however the fate of the most recent cease-fire is not different from the previous ones. Israel has never fulfilled its promises and cynically considers the cease-fire as a temporary process, allowing time to prepare for a new wave of violence.

At a time when there is no will or strength in the Arab world to resist against any anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab development, the current Israeli and U.S. government is trying to legalize the years of Israeli atrocities, crimes against humanity, and violations of human rights. Most steps taken by these two governments contradict with and violate international norms and rules. First, the Israeli parliament adopted a law that is known as the “basic law” or “the nation-state act” in 2018. According to this law, the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people and thereby it denies Palestinian people any national rights or existence.

Second, U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of the “united Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a pivotal point in the history of the Middle East, for both regional and global actors. This decision, with significant implications for the Middle Eastern politics, is not only about the transfer of the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but also about the halt of the Middle Eastern peace process. Furthermore, it implicitly means that the U.S. supports the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and the prevention of the establishment of a Palestinian state. In other words, the U.S. has contradicted its traditional policy and has abandoned the long-time advocated two-state solution.

Third, contrary to basic rules of international law and a number of UN resolutions, the U.S. government announced that they do not consider the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as inconsistent with international law. The U.S. also stopped funding the United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) and closed down the Washington D.C office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a body internationally recognized as the representative of the Palestinian people. With all these steps, the U.S. government demonstrated that it fully and unconditionally supports the Israeli state.

Fourth, Trump has declared a so-called Middle East peace plan on January 28, 2020 after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz in Washington D.C. The U.S. government has ignored and violated all decisions made and resolutions passed by the UN regarding the issue, according to which the Israeli state is an occupier of the Palestinian land and violator of international rules and norms. Bearing in mind all these illegal steps, it can be said that the U.S. shares the responsibility with Israel for the violation of Palestinian rights.

Achieving peace between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people appears to be unachievable, because the Israeli side does not take any Palestinian demands into consideration. All steps taken so far have been unilateral and against the interests of the Palestinians. The Deal of the Century is no exception; it is also a unilateral intervention to the question. Effectively, it is a dictation to the Palestinian-Israeli problem which ignores the realities on the ground.

The timing of the Deal of the Century has to do with the current situation in the Arab world. As a matter of fact, today there is no political Arab world, since almost all heavyweight nationalist Arab states are in chaos, politically unstable or vulnerable. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia who claim the leadership of the Arab world are closely associated with the Trump Administration and the Israeli state. These two Arab states and the current Egyptian government support Israel rather than the Palestinians and blame Palestinian political groups instead of the Israeli state for the ongoing situation. These states condemn the retaliatory actions conducted by the Palestinians and remain silent about the inhumane treatment they suffer at the hands of the Israeli war machine. Consequently, there is no strong Arab state to defend the rights of Palestinians. For decades, Arab regimes have exploited the issue for domestic political legitimacy. Arab regimes who were afraid of their peoples tried to satisfy their demands by exaggerating the Israeli threat. Nowadays it appears that their fear of external powers is greater, which is why they capitulate to the demands of countries such as Israel and the U.S. and accordingly use the Palestinian issue in negotiations to their own benefit.

However, Trump’s proclamation of the Deal of the Century caused fierce reaction from public opinion worldwide, especially from the Arab streets and Muslim communities. The Trump Administration miscalculated the civilian reaction. This time, it will be difficult to convince the Arab public, since it is much more aware than before about their regimes’ foreign policy behavior. Trump’s declaration, which contributed to the reunification of the Arab and Muslim peoples, satisfies only radical Christians and Zionist Jews.

As long as the blockade on the Palestinian lands continues, the region will be subject to new waves of violence. Considering the unstable international system, ultra-nationalist, and xenophobic Western politics, chaotic regional atmosphere and Israeli domestic politics, it is not expected that the Israeli government will ease the blockade and give some rights to the Palestinians. Global powers such as the U.S. and the European Union not only close their eyes to the Israeli atrocities but also support its unequal and limitless violence. Even the UN has begun to warn “the two sides” about the escalation of violence, thus undervaluing the Israeli brutality by equating it with the small retaliatory actions of the Palestinains. Therefore, it can be said that there is currently no deterrent power in the world that is preventing Israeli aggression. Only a significant change in the regional and global balance of power will bring considerable changes in Israeli policies towards the region.

This new issue of Insight Turkey highlights different subjects regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Some of the leading and well-known intellectuals and academicians from Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Europe, and the United States contributed to this issue focusing of different dimensions of the problem.

From a religious perspective, more particularly in Islam, the status and significance of Bayt al-Maqdis, the city of al-Quds, which is one of the main themes of the problem, must be acknowledged. Ikrime Sa’eed Sabri’s commentary explains the significance of Bayt al-Maqdis by addressing the close bonds, namely the bonds of creed, worship, civilization and culture, and history which are firm ties that link Muslims to Bayt al-Maqdis and the land of Palestine.

The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has faced many different obstacles since the United Nations resolved to partition Palestine into two separate states, Jewish and Arab. Galia Golan addresses these obstacles between Israel and Palestine as well as possibilities for peace, primarily the pragmatic 1988 PLO decision to create a new state, next to the state of Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem. She discusses the possibilities of achieving a political peaceful co-existence in Palestine and finds it quite challenging.

The commentary written by Victor Kattan examines the legality of the Israeli settlements and occupations in the West Bank, based on the perspective of international law and U.S. foreign policy. He analyzes the motives of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to initiate an investigation into the alleged war crimes committed in Palestine by the Israeli state, which include Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Is the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict achievable?” is the question that Ian Lustic seeks to answer. In his opinion, this solution is a pretty picture of the future that only good people can imagine. Meanwhile, it remains just that, a picture, because there is a lack of effort to conduct negotiations between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people. This lack of effort is mainly related to the nature of negotiations which have become highly provocative in recent years.

The influx of immigrant Jewish communities from different countries to Israel has disenfranchised the Palestinians from their land. Although, Israel claims that it offers democratic rights for all its citizens, in reality Palestinians have nothing. Ran Greenstein conceptualizes this situation by comparing the Israeli policies with the practice of apartheid in South Africa. He identifies the policies practiced by Israel as “apartheid of a special type” and a crime against humanity.

To reveal how the status of the original Palestinian population has been ignored, Elia Zureik highlights the Israeli practices of governance in Palestine and how the Zionist movement and later the Israeli state have worked to kill the dream of the Palestinian people for their own state. This has been achieved through passing racially biased laws that discriminate against the native population, and using violence when enforcing those laws, especially after the Israeli state codified its new citizenship law that defines Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Ayfer Erdoğan and Lourdes Habash question the continuity of the U.S. policy making towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially under the Trump Administration. The results show that there hasn’t been a radical change throughout the administrations; however, the U.S. position in the conflict has become more transparent with a sharper pro-Israel tilt during the Trump Administration.

Hamas has a dual role in the political and military struggle against the Israeli state on one hand and Fatah in Palestinian politics on the other. Although Hamas has had many achievements, since its establishment in the late 1980s, it has also failed in many aspects. To understand why, Nasuh Uslu and İbrahim Karataş evaluate this dualist struggle of Hamas in Palestine. The authors conclude that since Hamas has been otherized by many international actors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some international actors contributed more to this struggle. However, Hamas is still expected to fulfill the needs of Palestinians.

In addition to these eight articles, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, there are some insightful pieces on a range of topics regarding Turkey and international politics. The transformation of international education with a Turkey-centric perspective strengthens Turkey’s cultural diplomacy and soft power. This transformation is led by different sub-governmental and non-governmental organizations. One of the leading actors is the Turkish Maarif Foundation. In their commentary, Birol Akgün and Mehmet Özkan contextualize the foundation’s foreign and domestic policy and outline a vision through evaluating activities over the past three years.

The principle of “the more corrupt the country, the less democratic it is likely to be” can be measured in the Balkan countries. Sabrina P. Ramet in her article addresses problems that the Balkan countries are facing, such as corruption, unemployment, and poverty.

With regard to the events of the Gulf Crisis, Farhan Mujahid Chak deconstructs the reasons and motives behind the quartet’s blockade on Qatar. To do so, he employs post-colonialism variables, assuming that the preponderance of the U.S. military power in the Gulf Cooperation Council produces competing ‘projects’ in the Middle East. He underlines three conflicting ideal types: subservient, resisting/increasing, and pivoting from engagement to resisting the American hegemony.

The article written by Nur Köprülü takes us back to the events of when the public protests engulfed most Arab regimes in 2011. However, she focuses on how the democratization processes in the MENA region led to the empowerment of the Islamist actors after decades of political exclusion. Hence, within a domestic and regional context shaping the politics of Islamist parties, Köprülü explores different trajectories of two countries in the region, the inclusion of Islamists in the case of Tunisia and their exclusion in the case of Jordan.

In the last piece of this issue, Krizza Janica Mahinay analyzes the shift of the Moro National Liberation Movement (MNLF) in the discourse on Malaysia and the ramifications of this new discourse within the Philippine state. She elaborates this shift through the lens of power relations and foreign policy, taking into account the struggle for legitimacy within the Philippines.

Through a wide range of commentaries and articles, this issue of Insight Turkey aims to bring to its readers a comprehensive framework on the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian question. Whether there will be a deal to this problem remains a difficult question to be answered. Currently one thing is clear, that the plan declared by the Trump Administration, which was welcomed by Israel and some of its Arab allies, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, assures the Palestinian people the continuation of their century long ordeal. 

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