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MIDEAST MIRROR 09.06.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Damaged goods

 

Israeli newspapers lead their Tuesday editions with the latest installment in a long-running corruption soap opera: news that a retired senior police officer was questioned Monday at the police's internal investigations department as part of an ever-widening corruption investigation centering on celebrity lawyer Ronel Fisher.

Also on the front pages of all the newspapers is a claim – immediately denied – that Deputy Knesset Speaker Oren Hazan used hard drugs and ordered escorts for customers of his business in Bulgaria. Oren – a freshman Likud MK – said that he plans to sue Channel 2 for first reporting the allegations. 'I've already instructed my lawyer to send a warning letter prior to filing a lawsuit against Channel 2 and reporter Amit Segel,' Hazan wrote on his Facebook page.

The other big story of the day came courtesy of the Supreme Court in the United States, which struck down a disputed law that would have allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to list their birthplace as Israel on their U.S. passports. It is seen as an important ruling that underscores the president's authority in foreign affairs. The court ruled 6-3 that Congress overstepped its bounds when it approved the law in 2002. It would have forced the State Department to alter its long-standing policy of not listing Israel as the birthplace for Jerusalem-born Americans. The policy is part of the U.S. government's refusal to recognize any nation's sovereignty over Jerusalem, until Israelis and Palestinians resolve its status through negotiations.

While there has been no official response from Israel or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin reacted by noting that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state and 'will remain that for eternity.' Elkin, whose portfolio includes Jerusalem, called on the U.S. administration to accept 'the simple fact that is a fundament of the Jewish heritage, and incidentally of Christian heritage as well - Jerusalem is the heart of the Land of Israel, and the eternal capital of the State of Israel.'

Also responding to the decision was Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi), who lives in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. 'United Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the center of the world,' asserted Ben-Dahan. 'This is how it was and how it will be.' 'The Obama administration should express a clear position that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel, especially in a period in which movements that negate the existence of the state are raising their heads,' he added.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the decision. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas, said that the Supreme Court's decision is consistent with the decisions of international institutions, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. He further stated that 'the decision sends an obvious message that Israel is an occupying power of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.'

Elsewhere on the Palestinian front, a new study says that Israelis and Palestinians would gain billions of dollars from peace. The RAND Corp. study published Monday indicates over the next decade Israelis would gain $120 billion from a peace deal. The Palestinians would gain $50 billion, marking a 36-percent rise in their average per-capita income. In contrast, a return to violence would see the Israeli economy lose some $250 billion in foregone economic opportunities, while the Palestinians could see their per-capita gross domestic product fall by as much as 46 percent.

In related news, senior cabinet minister Silvan Shalom has called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions. Shalom has been designated by the prime minister as Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians. Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, minister Shalom said that if the Palestinians were serious, they would find a real partner in Israel. He called for the convening of a security-diplomatic-economic conference with the participation of the Palestinians and moderate Arab states, along with Israel. Shalom said that such a conference would advance peace negotiations and the overall situation in the region.

Finally, Netanyahu ensured that the 'BDS threat' remained in the headlines, saying that he is encouraged by the unity between right and left in Israeli politics in the effort against the anti-Israel boycotts. Speaking at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, the prime minister said that he was also encouraged by the legislative process underway in the U.S. against the phenomenon of boycotts, and that such an effort will help Israel's international campaign. In a reference to the Meretz faction, Netanyahu said that he was surprised to hear that one of the Knesset factions was introducing a bill to distinguish the labeling of Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank. The prime minister said he would be asking to remove the bill from the Knesset agenda.

 

NEGOTIATIONS AGAINST THE BOYCOTT: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ronen Bergman says that the only effective way to deal with the BDS movement is to engage in meaningful and serious negotiations with the Palestinians.

"The recent spikes in the noise surrounding the organized boycott of Israel – most of which have been purely symbolic thus far – are a warning light. However, there has been an outpouring of nationalistic claptrap over late, which is misleading the Israeli public and preventing serious discussion from taking place. Here are some examples:

1-BDS is a direct continuation of the Arab boycott of Israel: No it isn't. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, Arab countries imposed an economic boycott on the State of Israel, using their oil to force international companies and organizations not to have any contact with Israel. This time, no Arab state or association is spearheading the boycott. Rather, it is a confluence of unconnected people and groups across the world, who are united in their harsh criticism of Israel – some of which is justified, some of which is totally fallacious – and their shared goal of taking whatever measures are needed to force Israel to end the occupation.

2-Israel is the only country subjected to boycotts and since we are Jews, the BDS is anti-Semitic: Not true. A comparison of the BDS movement today and the global campaign against apartheid will show that the participants share many of the same characteristics, come from the same places, use the same rhetoric and focus their efforts on similar areas. Were the students in the United States and Europe who demonstrated in huge numbers against segregation in the U.S. South and against the regime in Pretoria also anti-Semitic?

3-The boycott movement is being organized by terrorists, Palestinians and radical anti-Semites: No, it isn't. Among the hundreds of organizations and Facebook groups which are involved in the BDS movement, there are doubtless some who match that description, but if it were up to them, Israel would have been boycotted long ago. Not that they didn't try. The power of a boycott lies in the momentum it manages to create among groups that have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the moment that suicide bombers stopped blowing up buses and cafes in our towns and cities, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks like a complex territorial dispute that destabilizes the entire region and, from afar, looks like apartheid.

4-Israel can beat the boycott if its hasbara effort were only more effective and had more funding: No, it couldn't. The key problem in the war against the boycott is not the marketing – it's the product. In 2015, you can't sell the occupation. More effective Israeli propaganda will only buy us limited time – another apology from the CEO of Orange, another resolution rejected by FIFA. It cannot save us forever. Covert missions and intelligence gathering is only effective when dealing with a handful of adversaries; it's useless against hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people.

5-'The goal of the BDS campaign is not just to influence Israeli policy on this issue or that; it is to eradicate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.' So said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. That might be true for some of those who protest against Israel, but it is not the case for the vast majority. I have met with people who are actively involved in the campaign to boycott Israel, and it is my impression that they are genuinely concerned that, because of the occupation, Israel is becoming an apartheid state and that they have a duty to change this. Some say that I am being fooled by clever anti-Semites who conceal their true intentions. But claims that there is a conspiracy to destroy Israel by criticizing the occupation demand proof – and the burden is on the people making that accusation.

The apartheid regime in South Africa did not collapse because of the ANC's terrorism, but because regime leaders saw how white South Africans were leaving in their droves, since they did not want to live in a pariah country and recognized that the end was near. The comparison that supporters of the BDS movement make between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa is far from accurate, but the comparison between the international community's relationships with the two is more accurate. We must look this truth in the eyes and understand that there is only one way to deal with the boycott: genuine negotiations with the Palestinians."

Ends…

 

THERE'S NO SUCH LAW: Writing in Israel Hayom, Dror Eydar argues that advocates of the boycott movement against Israel cannot argue that their actions are dictated by international law – since there is no such law prohibiting economic dealing with companies operating in 'occupied' territories.

"Supporters of the boycott – including some Israelis, who half-heartedly advocate a boycott of settlement products, base their arguments on international law. Well, Judea and Samaria are not 'Palestinian territories.' At most, they are disputed. Israel, too, claims ownership of those lands, by virtue of national identity, history, justice and the bible. These are arguments put forward by world-renowned jurists ever since the end of the Six-Day War.

In any case, opponents of Israel's settlements in Judea and Samaria claim that international law prohibits anyone from economically helping an occupying force in territories that are the subject of a battle. Here's a surprise for you: there's no such law. Writing on the website of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Dr. Eugene Kontorovich – an expert in constitutional law, international law, and law and economics – wrote an article titled 'Economic Dealings with Occupied Territories.'

Kontorovich examined legal rulings and the economic behavior of European countries and showed that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, international law does not prohibit economic activity in occupied territories. European companies operate in Western Sahara – a region that was captured in 1979 by Morocco and which has not been recognized by any state; the same goes for northern Cyprus, which was captured by Turkey in 1974.

At the same time as the European Union was taking action to bar economic ties over the Green Line, it was signing economic treaties with Morocco which help that country's presence in Western Sahara. Among these companies were those from France. They signed these deal not because, when it comes to Morocco, they are willing to turn a blind eye to the law, but because there simply is no such law.

What makes the story of Orange and the comments by its global CEO even more amazing is that a French court has ruled that companies are not violating international law or the Geneva Convention by operating over the Green Line or even by dealing with the Israeli government. The British High Court reached a similar conclusion. There are no examples of contradictory rulings. James Crawford, another jurist who specializes in international law, was hired by some British trades unions to write a legal opinion backing up the BDS movement; he reached the conclusion that there is no law against economic ties with companies in 'occupied' territories. Supporters of the BDS movement argue that they cannot do business with Israel not because they are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic – but because international law prohibits them from doing so. But the behavior of the Europeans elsewhere in the world proves that this simply isn't the case. In fact, the law that they are trying to apply to Israel is so problematic that they do not try to apply it to other countries.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth this week, Sever Plocker wrote that, 'Israeli right-wing representatives use a language and terms that the Western academic left doesn’t understand and doesn’t accept. So they had better keep quiet.' Plocker was referring to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. It's nothing new to find journalists turning their boorishness into ideology. Let's not forget that historical and religious arguments are also part of the arsenal used by those who are arguing Israel's case.

Economic bodies that take steps against Israel will find themselves getting into trouble with European law. And even if we fail to persuade the Europeans, it's important to know that they are not acting in accordance with any international law – because there is no such law."

Ends…

 

IRON DOME ISN'T ENOUGH: Writing on the NRG website, Avishai Shorshon says that the Iron Dome missile defense system is allowing Israel's government and defense establishment to remain on the back foot, while Hamas is consistently upgrading its offensive capabilities.

"This week, the IDF Spokesperson's Office announced – to the joy and applause of local residents – that an Iron Dome missile defense battery would be deployed in the Rehovot region. Presumably, those celebrating the announcement were looking forward to taking a selfie in front of the latest local attraction.

But allow me to cool their enthusiasm somewhat. The Iron Dome does not turn the IDF into a more professional army and does not make it better prepared for the next conflict. At most, it provides our political leadership with some breathing space. That has become a strategic goal. It is a strategy that is based on the absence of any serious response to a very real threat. Instead our leaders brag to the world about how the Iron Dome keeps Israeli citizens safe from Hamas rockets.

The Iron Dome is an excellent defensive system and it is fantastic that Israel developed it, along with many other defensive systems. But the problem is how we view it. Defensive measures have become part and parcel of the military strategy of the IDF and the State of Israel. In fact, they have become the main strategy of the IDF and the defense establishment. The Iron Dome is important, but it's not the most important thing. The defense establishment should focus more on eradicating the threat and not just protecting us from it. Another battery, another bomb shelter and another concrete box won't weaken Hamas; rather, they will be seen as a challenge and the organization will redouble its efforts to overcome our defenses.

Throughout the course of 2,000 years of exile we protected ourselves, defended ourselves and thought of ways to make the next blow less painful. We thought long and hard about the best way to present our other cheek. Now that we are masters of our own domain, it's time to leave behind this kind of thinking and to ensure that no one will dare to attack us again in the future.

Imagine what would have happened if Israel did not have the Iron Dome during Operation Protective Edge. What would have happened when a barrage of missiles fell on Tel Aviv, causing unprecedented damage and loss of life? What would have happened to us and how would the IDF have responded?

If the IDF and the government treated each intercepted missile as if it had hit its target and caused the maximum amount of damage, the situation would be very different. Because, in the end, if we sit by and wait for Hamas to improve its rocket capabilities; it will end very badly. The government has to decide whether it will adhere to the spirit of exile or whether it will finally act like a sovereign government."

Ends…

 

THE DEKEL PLAN: In an open letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon published in Maariv, Udi Dekel details the kind of regional diplomatic initiative that he believes will end tensions with the United States, provide Israel with diplomatic and military stability and resolve once and for all the Palestinian issue.

"Nobody knows better than you, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, that the current crisis in the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington is not merely personal; rather, it is a reflection of the different ways that the two governments see the key challenges facing the Middle East and how these challenges should best be met.

Because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is also Israel's foreign minister, there is an opportunity for you, Mr. Ya'alon, to restore your standing in the eyes of the Obama Administration and to become the address for anyone interested in rebuilding trust and cooperation between the two countries. That is why you must – as soon as is humanly possible – initiate an open and frank dialogue with your American counterpart, to discuss urgent security and diplomatic matters.

The main issues that you should discuss with him are as follows: the ramifications of the Iranian nuclear agreement, with emphasis on creating a system of inspection, verification and effective intelligence. This dialogue should also pave the way for Israel to receive 'compensation' from the United States, in the form of advanced weapons systems, closer strategic coordination and a clear and unequivocal American commitment that, in the event that the Islamic Republic violates the terms of the agreement, sanctions will automatically be imposed anew. It must also touch on continued American military support for Israel after 2017. The Obama Administration must understand that it is impossible to carry out President Obama's order to destroy ISIS without also smashing the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis, which is encouraging Sunni organizations to join forces with ISIS. Finally, the talks must end with the Americans agreeing to discuss the security arrangements that Israel feels are necessary in the event of a deal with the Palestinian Authority – including arrangements that are not specified in a final-status agreement.

As defense minister, you are obviously concerned about the ramifications of a nuclear deal between the West and Iran in a broader context. After all, such a deal would provide Iran with an incentive and the means to expand its negative influence across the region. You must, therefore, reach an understanding with the United States to establish a regional system of military cooperation, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States – with the emphasis on preparing a broad response in the event that Iran violates the nuclear agreement or misuses the agreement to expand its regional influence and its support of destabilizing elements across the Middle East. The purpose of this cooperative venture would be to block Iran's efforts to expand its sphere of influence. At the same time, it must formulate a plan to prevent Iranian-backed terrorist infrastructures from taking root – the al-Quds Force, Hizbollah and various Shiite militias – on the Golan Heights, in southern Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip. Israel must ready itself for the possibility that ISIS will set up shop on its border on the Golan.

I share the opinion that a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, which will bring to an end a century of conflict and will represent the culmination of mutual demands, is not attainable in the foreseeable future. However, the stagnant diplomatic process is a serious problem for Israel, since it damages our international standing and undermines the legitimacy of all of our diplomatic and military endeavors. Therefore, you must initiate a diplomatic-military plan based on three ideas.

Beyond the moral issue, it is in Israel's interests to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, in order to prevent radical factions that could accelerate escalation and drag Israel into another round of fighting with Gaza. Similarly, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could fall on Israel's shoulders, both because the international community sees Israel as responsible for the situation there and also because of the concern that there could be a mass exodus of Gazans attempting to enter Israel.  At the same time, Hamas – which is feeling the distress of the people it rules over in Gaza – is intimating that it is willing to reach a long-term truce with Israel in exchange for the accelerated rehabilitation of the Strip.

Any such agreement would have to overcome several obstacles. First, that it would give Hamas even greater power over Gaza and would further entrench its regime. Second, the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to take a leading role in the rebuilding effort and the funds needed for it, despite the demands of the West and Arab states, which have undertaken to fund the project. Third, Egypt, which is a key player in the rebuilding project, has declared all-out war on the Muslim Brotherhood and is refusing to get behind a project that will further cement Hamas' position.

The first priority, therefore, must be to persuade the Palestinian Authority to play a more active role in rebuilding Gaza. For this, Israel needs to come up with a diplomatic plan that gives Ramallah political, security and economic incentives: this could include control over the border crossings into Gaza and expanded authority over parts of Judea and Samaria. Israel could also free up parts of Area C for economic and industrial projects, alleviate some of the restrictions on Palestinian travel in the territories and give more work permits for Palestinians to enter Israel. All of this would be in exchange for the PA's willingness to be an active participant in the effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip and to prevent Hamas growing stronger at its expense.

Finally, a multinational task force – including the moderate Arab states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), the international community, the Palestinian Authority and Israel – must be established to ensure that the rebuilding process has full political and financial support. This will make it easier for Egypt and the PA to participate.

The bottom line is simple: a comprehensive diplomatic initiative to resolve the Palestinian issue and to rebuild the Gaza Strip – as part of a broad regional initiative involving the United States, the international community and as many moderate Arab states as possible – would provide Israel with the political and military stability that it so desperately needs."

Ends…

 

MUTUAL SUSPICION TRUMPS ECONOMIC BENEFITS: Writing in Haaretz, Amos Harel says that, despite a report forecasting that Israel could reap a $123 billion peace dividend; facts on the ground are likely to stymie any progress.

"The report released on Monday by the RAND Corporation that a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would provide economic dividends to both sides is fine in theory but oblivious to certain facts on the ground which could well condemn it to obscurity.

The report estimates Israel’s 'peace dividend' at $123 billion after 10 years, with the Palestinians benefiting to the tune of $50 billion plus a 36 percent increase in average GDP per capita. The corollary, if peace is not achieved, could be renewed long-term armed conflict between the two sides with severe economic repercussions for both. Israel alone could lose out on a projected $250 billion in economic opportunities over the decade.

The conclusions of RAND, a prestigious international organization, reflect what should already be understood: A permanent diplomatic solution between Israel and the Palestinians would bring economic benefit to both sides. It could potentially ease the security burden on Israel (even if, in that regard, the report isn’t very optimistic,) remove obstacles to international commerce – with the boycott movement showing signs of picking up steam – and would free up the Palestinian economy after many decades of hardly functioning in the shadow of occupation.

But the optimistic forecast touted by RAND should be read with a few caveats, which could undermine its entire theoretical success. First, as became clear after the most recent election, fear for personal security trumps possible future economic benefits for Israelis. The terrible memories of the Second Intifada, which ended only 10 years ago, are ingrained in the memory of every Israeli, as well as every Palestinian. Many Israelis would likely ask themselves: what if the agreement fails, and the territory we evacuate becomes a hotbed of terror once again? What price will we pay, both economically and in terms of loss of life?

Second, and perhaps just as much an obstacle as the first point, is that the Palestinians, according to RAND and other economists over the years, would be expected to be the big economic winners from a two-state agreement. Among them, as well, the potential for economic benefit would have to compete with the weighty issue of ideology – the willingness to accept Israel’s existence, as well as the other Israeli demands on which Palestinian negotiators, from Yasser Arafat to his successor Mahmoud Abbas, have been unable to soften their positions: Jerusalem, the future of refugees, borders and the settlements.

If the long years of frustrating failures have revealed anything, it’s that both leaderships (certainly Israel under Netanyahu, and the Palestinians under Abbas, though his approach is more rational than Arafat’s,) are incredibly suspicious of the other side. It seems that there is only a partial will to reach a permanent agreement. To that we need to add the other obstacles standing in Israel’s way, including the need to relocate at least a hundred thousand settlers from isolated settlements (of about 390,000 settlers in the West Bank, and a similar number over the Green Line in Jerusalem) – a difficult issue for the public, and an even more difficult order to give to the IDF, many of whose senior commanders are religious and support the settlements.

RAND’s report was published during a week in which Israel, with great public disinterest, marked 48 years since the Six Day War and the occupation of the West Bank. Despite their thorough analysis, research and good intentions, it’s likely that this promising vision will also crash against the shores of reality. Unfortunately, it’s likely that this report will do nothing more than accumulate dust in a desk drawer somewhere in the Finance Ministry or the Foreign Ministry. It’s definitely possible that in 10 years or so, someone will pull it out of the drawer and ask: What if?"

Ends…

 

KURDS IN THEIR WAY: Writing on the Times of Israel website, Ely Karmon comments on the strategic significance of Turkey’s election results for the Kurds.

"The results of Turkey’s June 7 legislative elections represent a significant setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political aspirations to change the constitutional framework and become an autocratic leader with unmatchable powers.

Not only has his AK Party lost the majority in the Turkish Parliament, but for the first time a Kurdish party, The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which succeeded in attracting the Turkish left, religiously conservative Kurds who had voted for the AKP in previous elections, and disaffected liberals, passed the difficult threshold of 10 percent of the vote and entered the Parliament in force. Most Turkish analysts and columnists have portrayed HDP’s leader Selahattin Demirtas as the star of Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Paradoxically, Erdogan himself is responsible for his own demise and for the Kurdish victory.

One of Erdogan’s most important legacies is an ongoing peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK). The Kurdish Opening of the AKP government has put a temporary halt to a thirty year insurgency that has cost over 40,000 lives. After years of clandestine negotiations with PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan by Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, one month before the August 10, 2014 presidential elections, the Turkish Parliament approved legislation creating the legal framework for Turkish politicians to engage in the peace talks. The peace process caused fierce opposition by Turkey’s nationalist camp and toward the end of the presidential campaign, Erdogan‘s ethnic and sectarian appeals to the Turkish nationalist camp helped him gain the Presidential race.

Thus, President Erdogan faced a choice between expanding his Kurdish Opening, 'which will move Turkey closer to becoming a bi-national state [or] continuing to assuage right-wing Turkish nationalism.' His AK Party will be hard put to manage rising expectations among Turkey’s Kurds while retaining Turkish nationalist support for the 2015 elections. It was clear during this negotiation process that Prime Minister Erdogan’s liberal policy regarding the Kurds was meant mainly to bring him their votes in his campaign for the presidency and stabilize the country during a period of regional turmoil.

With the approach of the June legislative elections, Erdogan faced a serious dilemma, as he acutely needed the Kurdish vote for his Presidential project but feared the backlash of the Turkish nationalists and the military.

Erdogan showed no signs that he plans to meet any of the Kurds main demands, including constitutional changes to give Kurds ethnic-based rights and some self-rule. He focused on avoiding concessions while extracting promises that the PKK will disarm and disband. On February 15 he said he was 'expecting' Ocalan to make a statement that the PKK was going to disarm, hoping this would give his party a boost before the national elections.

However, Ocalan stopped short of calling for the full disarmament of the PKK, a move that Turkey’s government had expected. In an address delivered 21 March on behalf of Ocalan by HDP leaders in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, where thousands gathered for the celebration of Nowruz, the PKK leader emphasized that a 'democratic solution' was the only way to settle Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

HDP’s leader Demirtas for his part realized that he needed to contain the damage from the joint statement by Kurds and the Turkish government and on March 17, he said his party would never help Erdogan realize his ambitions for presidential rule, even as he restated Kurdish commitment to making peace with Turkey.

The direct result of Erdogan’s disappointment has been the government’s decision to isolate Ocalan in the ?mrali prison beginning April 5, when HDP’s delegation last visited him.

Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar predicted two days before the elections that in any scenario of the elections results 'for many citizens of Turkey, notwithstanding the uncertainties the elections may lead to, the most important outcome would be to see whether the beginning of the end of the Erdogan era will commence.'

Some Turkish newspapers like Sozcu headlined the 'downfall' of President Erdogan, and Today’s Zaman dubbed it a rejection of 'authoritarianism, the palace, and corruption.' London’s Al-Quds al Arabi expects the ramifications of the vote to 'define the future of the whole region for years to come.'

President Erdogan for his part could be in a state of shock. At the writing of these lines, Monday evening, he didn’t appear in public and Erdogan’s office issued a brief statement declaring that the nation’s will is above everything else. He acknowledged that no party had won an overall majority and said this was a 'real and healthy' reflection of the election race. He stressed the great importance of 'responsible behavior and necessary sensitivity' of all political forces 'to preserve the atmosphere of stability and confidence in [the] country and [the] democratic achievements.' Erdogan’s conciliatory tone contrasted sharply with the highly polarizing language he used during the campaign.

Turkey enters now a period of political uncertainty and the issue of the difficult process to build an unnatural coalition or to return to new elections will preoccupy the Turkish political class and the public. The HDP’s huge electoral success gives it now a leverage to press the government for the liberation or at least easier detention conditions for PKK leader Ocalan. At the same time it will clearly put the Kurds in a position of force in the negotiations for their future in the Turkish state. On the internal and regional strategic level, the Kurds’ new political status will change the rules of the game in Turkey, but probably also in Syria, Iraq and even Iran."

Ends…

 

 

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