September 8, 2010
This summer has gone by fast and now it is almost finally over. Unfortunately, I have not been able to submit a blog during the last month; not only due to family obligations which has taken me on a four-week trip with my daughter to Istanbul, New York, California, and as of tomorrow Minnesota. But also due to a really hot Istanbul summer where it was quite difficult to sit down and write (not to mention the ongoing saga of renovations done on my house, which were supposed to last 4 days but dragged on for 3 weeks). Despite this, exciting times have been brewing in Turkey and Israel. Happily as of September 15 I will be back in Istanbul trying to catch up!
All Eyes on Turkey
For Turkey, as many of you know, on September 12 they will go to the ballot box to vote on a referendum focusing on constitutional reform. It seems that the results will be close with many predicting that the ruling AKP party will be able to convince the majority of Turkish citizens to vote “Yes.” However, one cannot dismiss the Opposition, who are trying to convince the electorate that the reforms are nothing more than the AKP trying to phase out one more bastion of the secular state: the judiciary and to vote “No.” Undoubtedly, if the “Yes” votes surpasses the “NO” votes the AKP will have won one of their greatest victories yet; however, this comes at a price. The referendum regardless of the outcome will continue to polarize the Turkish electorate. If the “No” vote surpasses the “Yes” votes then this will be truly a vote of no confidence for the Prime Minster Erdogan. This is actually the root of the problem with the referendum campaign turning into more-or-less a vote of confidence with few people studying the complicated wording of the text and with both Erdogan and opposition leader Kilicdaroglu tied into a duel which has little to do with constitutional reform. A slim “Yes” victory is all the AKP needs to move forward, however if this happens the opposition can still claim some sort of victory, questioning if a mere slim majority is enough to implement such major changes. However, if the “No” vote comes through this will be a major political defeat for Erdogan and will be the first major sign that the 2011 parliamentary elections will be up for grabs. Lastly, the Kurdish Peace and Democrat Party has called for a general boycott so we also will be able to see how many of their supporters heed to their leaders call. In general, the Kurdish vote is one the Prime Minister Erdogan is relying on to bolster a strong majority.
Israel and Palestine: Back to the Table
For Israel and the Palestine, a new round of negotiations has begun, rather than wasting my ink as I have done in the past, I prefer to wait and see what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas have in store. There are some signs that this round indeed will produce some type of interim-peace agreement. However, we have seen the script before and if we are basing it on passed negotiations this too is bound to fail. So I prefer to wait and see how it progresses in the next couple of weeks, or as we say in Hebrew until ahrei hahagim (after the long period of holidays between of Rosh Shanah to Sukkot when it is almost impossible to get anything done). For now, to all my Muslim and Jewish readers I wish you a Happy Eid/Bayram and a Happy New Year (with them falling on the same day this year)!