After the Israeli flotilla incident, Turkey is the new Palestinian champion
Egypt’s control of the Palestinian 'file' will never be the same again, says former British intelligence operative Alastair Crooke.
“This is language that we have not heard since the time of Gamal Abdul Nasser.” Thus wrote the influential chief editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, referring to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fiery response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla – adding that such “manly” positions and rhetoric had “disappeared from the dictionaries of our Arab leaders (since the demise of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser).” He lamented that “Arab regimes now represent the only friends left to Israel.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
There is no doubt that it is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, President Nasser’s successor, to whom Abdel Bari Atwan principally refers; and there is no doubt, too, that the “flotilla affair” marks a watershed moment for Egypt – and to a lesser extent for Saudi Arabia.
Even the notoriously tin ear of President Mubarak to his own people’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Gaza could not fail to hear the grinding of the tectonic plates of Middle East change. Even Mubarak has felt obliged to respond to the Israeli assault. He ordered the immediate opening of the Egyptian crossing into Gaza.
What we are witnessing is another step – perhaps crucial – in the shifting strategic balance of power in the Middle East. The cause of the Palestinians is gradually passing out of the hands of Mubarak and King Abdullah bin Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. It is the leaders of Iran and Turkey, together with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who recognize the winds of change. Mubarak appears increasingly isolated and is cast as Israel’s most assiduous collaborator. Here in the region, it is often as not the Egyptian embassies that are the butt of popular demonstrations.
Mubarak’s motives for his dogged support for Israel are well known in the region: He is convinced that the gateway to obtaining Washington’s green light for his son Gamal to succeed him lies in Tel Aviv rather than Washington. Mubarak enjoys a bare modicum of support in the United States, and if Washington is to ignore its democratic principles in order to support a Gamal shoo-in, it will be because Israel says that this American “blind eye” is essential for its security.
To this end, Mubarak has worked to weaken and hollow out Hamas’s standing in Gaza, and to strengthen that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, he has pursued this policy at the expense of Palestinian unity – his regular “unity” initiatives notwithstanding. Egyptian one-sided peace “brokering” is viewed here as part of the problem rather than as part of any Palestinian solution. Paradoxically, it is precisely this posture that has opened the door to Turkey and Iran’s seizing of the sponsorship of the Palestinian cause.