Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dear Readers,

Please see the link below. It is an article of mine which was published in the Turkish language newspaper Today's Zaman.

Here is a short excerpt:

"Few would deny that Erdoğan has a great amount of political capital with the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza. If he were to work behind the scenes to secure the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, he could easily become a hero in the eyes of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

To go to the article, here is the link.

Israeli divide between İbrahim Tatlıses and Prime Minister Erdoğan by Louis Fishman

Monday, November 29, 2010

Some Intial thoughts on Wikileaks....

November 29, 2010

Yesterday an historian’s worst nightmare or greatest fantasy came true. The deluge of state documents released by Wikileaks has begun to gush over the dam’s walls. No longer will we have to wait thirty, fifty, or hundred years to read them. We now have instant satisfaction. In fact, the excitement is widespread; I do not think one topic has united so many of my facebook friends. The facebook updates as the night progressed became juicier and juicier as we became enthralled by the massive amount of official gossip. Whatever the case, we all have to agree that the US has once again proved its remarkable inability to control data.

A quick review of the Middle East documents has not seemed to produce anything new. Yes, the Mossad wanted to overthrow Ahmadinejad. Is this a surprise to anyone? Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries hastily tried to convince the US to attack the nuclear facilities in Iran. Is this a surprise to anyone? Prime Minister Erdogan is at one time a religious but practical politician and no internal opposition can compete with him in elections due to the weakness of the opposition party and the love of the masses. Surprise? Hardly so.

A quick survey will show that for the most part, what is said in all of these documents have been printed or talked about “here or there.” The world today is different and with so many outlets of information nothing should come as a surprise. Along with this, for those who love conspiracy theories, no real story has been broken. In fact, I actually wonder how long it will take for those mesmerized by such theories to claim that Wikileaks is actually a plot by the US government to cover up the real stories, by diverting our attention to such mundane documents.

During the next few weeks more documents will be emerging and the process of “pay-backs” will begin. For the world politicians, and diplomats involved in these documents this indeed is quite personal. The states involved will now start the painful process of denial or will use the information to clear them of any wrongdoing, or better yet use the information as proof of good-deeds. However, we all have to remember that we only have half the story. We have the story of diplomatic accounts, which even if it should not be belittled, it only show one side of the picture.

I guess the sad part in all of this is our infatuation with crisis. We all waited to find a “smoking gun,” or something that would stir up the world more. Are the new tensions between North and South Korea not enough for us? Do we need more conflicts to erupt in order to fulfill our need for gossip and hearsay? I guess there is no denying that these documents are already creating numerous scandals however the real question is if these are the most provocative documents they have in store for us, if so we all can take a deep breath and get on with our daily lives, and let the historians do their work in thirty years…I guess only time will tell!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Missing Yitzhak Rabin: 15 years since His Assassination

November 5, 2010

This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Israel has changed a great deal since then and I cannot help long for those times. The first years of Oslo were filled with excitement, optimism, and overall change. There clearly was an alternative to war and there was partner to speak with. In fact, the partner had always been there. I am not talking about Yasser Arafat but rather the Palestinian people. They were always there even if Israel did not want to see them.

A long 15 years have passed and when I watch the nightly Israeli news I am overcome by a feeling of déjà-vu. The stumbling blocks of the years before Rabin, then under Prime Minister Shamir, are back in place. Is the peace process today once again falling victim to the question of freezing the building of settlements? Is the Israeli government once again blocking the entrance of moderate Palestinian politicians into Jerusalem’s city limits? 20 years ago the controversy was over the Orient House and Faisal Husseini; today, it is over whether Prime Minister Fayyad can enter and be present at Palestinian ceremonial events.

A few months ago, in late August I wrote about why I was avoiding writing on the peace process, which once again was about to convene. Why waste my ink! Well, two months have passed and I am happy that I did not waste both my ink and my thoughts. What we see is that it is just more games and more stealing time. It is really hard to make sense out of the current Israeli government. How does a Prime Minister not punish a Foreign Minister that does and says as he wishes? How does a Prime Minister cave into a minority settlement movement? How does a whole generation of Israelis let petty politics of miniscule politicians ruin their future?

Now, the Palestinians have time on their side and let us hope that they will also be able to overcome their differences. The divide between the PLO and Hamas seems irreconcilable. While the West Bank culturally and economically is on the upbeat, Gaza remains under an Israeli blockade and culturally blockaded by Hamas. Of course, the former is much more critical; however, the latter also needs to be mentioned. If they are able to overcome these differences, the time would be right for a serious attempt at unilaterally declaring statehood. This has been done in the past however it seems that the world is more than ever ready to accept such a move. This move might even awaken the Israeli left who lays dormant somewhere in the beautiful upper class neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.

Lastly, the huge loss to the Democratic Party in the mid-term elections has left Barack Obama weaker than ever leaving even less hope for change. What more needs to said. So, once again I have painted a bleak picture. While I did not vote for the Labor party in 1992, it seems like no Israeli leader since Yitzhak Rabin has been willing to take the future in his/hers hands and set an ambitious agenda. As long as there is no real peace, with every passing year the memories of this period will become more painful. In other words, only when there really is peace will me and many others be able to leave Rabin’s memory to the past.