The Words of the Kamar Family
Jerusalem, Israel -- UPF-Israel organized a Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum on the topic of Current Trends in International Relations: Israel, Turkey, and the United States on June 24 at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.
Ambassador Dani Ayalon -Former Deputy Foreign Minister; Israeli Ambassador to the United States in 2002 -2006; author of frequent articles in Israeli and international newspapers including The Jerusalem Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Akiva Eldar -- Columnist for Almonitor; former chief political columnist and editorial writer for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz; adjacent professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Journalism; consultant for CBS News.
Dr. Anat Lapidot-Firilla- Head of Research for Neighbors in the Middle East, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute; professor, the Hebrew University, Department of International Relations.
Mr. Dan Catarivas -- Head of Foreign Trade and International Relations at the Manufacturers' Association of Israel.
Dr. Eldad Pardo -- Senior researcher, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Truman Institute; professor, the Hebrew University, Department of Islamic and Middle East Studies; specializes in Iran.
Mr. Yossi Nesher -- Head of the Arab desk at "The Voice of Israel", Israel's National Radio.
Dr. Piki Ish-Shalom -- Senior professor, the Hebrew University, Department of International Relations; specializes in democracy and international ethics.
Dr. Galia Pres -- Bar-Natan -- Senior professor, the Hebrew University, Department of International Relations; specializes in the theory of regional security cooperation.
Colonel Moshe Zurich (Reserve) -Former Israel Military Attach to the United States; former Deputy Head of Research, Directorate of Israeli Military Intelligence.
Dr. Eliezer Glaubach -- President, the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum; specializes in Israeli political studies focusing on Jerusalem.
Mrs. Adi Sasaki -- Director, the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum.
Ms. Miri Kamar -- Secretary General, Universal Peace Federation, Israel.
Dr. Nurit Hirshfeld -- Rapporteur, Universal Peace Federation, Israel.
The Jerusalem Forum for Peace and Security met on June 24, 2013, at the Van Lear Institute, across from the Israeli Presidential residence.
Welcoming remarks were offered by Mrs. Miri Kamar, Dr. Eliezer Gloubach, and Mrs. Adi Sasaki.
Dr. Glaubach, who presided over the forum, gave a brief overview of the activities of UPF, Israel since 2003 that created the foundation for this forum.
The opening remarks pointed out the demonstrations that broke out in 70 locations in Turkey, drawing out about 2.5 million people (out of the population of 75 million).One of the problems in Turkey is its strict media censorship. Therefore, many Turkish people use Facebook and other social media on the internet as a form of protest.In the short term, Turkey's image and relationship with the European Union has been damaged by its handling of these public protests.However, long term effects bode for a better future. These demonstrations also suggest a process of democratization, which may allow Turkey to eventually become a peripheral member of the European Union, similar to Norway and the United Kingdom.
Ambassador Dani Ayalon: For many years, the United States saw both Israel and Turkey as its anchors in the Middle East. As secular democratic states, these two nations have thus far been willing to accept American leadership, especially in light of the three nations' mutual interests regarding Syria, Iran, Kurdistan, and issues of energy and gas, among many others.
However, this is the time when previously accepted concepts are being strongly challenged, and the relationship between Israel and Turkey has been strained. Still, these mutual interests cannot be ignored and it is possible and advisable to further the strategic, economic and security relations with Turkey. In the long run it is highly recommended that Israel invest considerable efforts to bring its relations with Turkey back to normal for the benefit of both nations.
As to the peace process, John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, in his attempt to resolve the many problems in the changing Middle East, offered Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdo?an a key role in supporting the peace process between Israel and Palestine, asking him to secure a Hamas promise to not sabotage peace talks between Israel and Palestine and in the long term accept the Quartet on the Middle East, thus allowing Turkey to show support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and play a vital role in the rearrangement of the Middle East.
Mr. Akiva Eldar: American, Israeli and Turkish interests meet in three problem areas, in which they share one solution.
1. Syria -- the U.S. sees Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an ally of Iran, so they do not wish him retaining power. Israel understands that if Assad stays as president, he will be indebted to Iran for his survival, which doesn't serve Israeli interests.Turkey has been focused on internal issues, rather then the problems in Syria, but shares a long border with Syria and has interests in how Syria is shaped politically. Thus, the three nations find themselves on the same side, and forge a strategic alliance based on how they view and prefer the 'post-Assad' Syria.
2. Iran -- none of these nations is interested in Iran`s becoming stronger. Sunni Turkey and other Sunni Arab countries already oppose Shiite Iran, who tries to gain leadership in the Middle East. The threat of a nuclear Iran is part of the leadership battle, and is also seen as unacceptable for the region.
3. Palestine -- John Kerry is the first American Secretary of State to start a Middle East journey with Turkey. This places Turkey as an integral participant with a key role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Mr. Eldar sees the same solution for these three areas of interest, namely reconsidering the "Arab Peace Initiative", which no Israeli government since 2002 brought to discussion. According to the secretary of the Arab League, who expressed this view to Mr. Eldar, they still believe in the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
Mr. Eldar views the situation in Syria as a golden opportunity for Israel to consider the Arab Initiative, as no nation would expect Israel to negotiate with Syria over the Golan Heights at this time, and the negotiations can focus solely on the Palestinian issue. Turkey, which is a long term supporter of the Arab Peace Initiative, can take an active role in restarting this initiative and facilitating any discussions. Mr. Eldar concluded his presentation with the hope that the U.S. will encourage Turkey and Egypt to push the Palestinians, including Hamas, to accept the Arab Peace Initiative.
Dr. Anat Lapidot-Firilla: Turkey is entering more and more into the American influence circle. It still holds an imperialist attitude toward the Middle East, though it is relatively poor in energy resources and depends on other nations in the region for supplies. This can be the source of cooperation between Israel and Turkey, but also of tension and conflicts between them.Past experiences of joint projects, such as installing a water pipeline from Turkey to Israel, have all failed.
Another important player in the region, which has exhibited greater influence in the Middle East than Turkey, is Qatar. Another surging influence is the Kurdish people. The recent agreement between Russia and Cyprus as to the former's military presence in Cyprus is another reason for Turkey's concerns of losing influence in the region. While Turkey appears to be externally strong, its hegemony in the region is being threatened, and it does not have good command over its internal affairs, as shown in its handling of public dissatisfaction and the apparent loss of control in its border with Syria.
Dr. Lapidot-Firilla, in contrast to the opening remarks, gives little weight to the current demonstrations in Turkey, where public demonstrations have long been a tradition, with very little political consequences. She sees with concern that democracy in Turkey is in fact declining. Turkey's management of its internal affairs also draws criticism from the European Union and the United States.
In light of these issues, Turkey's support of Gaza is a good way to enhance its image and influence. Dr. Lapidot- Firilla recommends that Israel cooperate with Turkey on this issue in the hopes it will lead to some beneficial resolution.
Dr. Eldad Pardo: Dr. Pardo gave his analysis from a cultural-religious perspective.
He recently returned from an international academic conference in Turkey, where issues of Islamic public education were discussed. His impression was that opening the discussion to foreign scholars, including Israelis, especially in matters of religious education, suggests a measure of openness that should be recognized and appreciated.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are homothetic sister religions. Hence, the religious and cultural discourses could open new windows for cooperation and coexistence in the region. In a strictly political discourse, many factions of the region may find themselves excluded, but within a wider religious and cultural discussion, minorities and semi-states, such as Israeli-Arabs, Hamas, Kurds in Northern Iraq, and others, can be a part of the discussions and any future settlements. Mr. Dan Katribas:The strongest ground upon which Israel and Turkey can meet is the economic ground; it is far more stable than the current political situation. These are two countries with developing economies unlike the neighboring countries, whose economies are different. The economic cooperation between Israel and Turkey continues despite the strained political relationship. Presently, Israel, Turkey and the U.S. are working to develop the QIZ (Qualifying Industrial Zones) to strengthen the economic cooperation between the nations. Creating the QIZ will encourage Israeli exports to Turkey and Turkish exports to the U.S., so it is in the best interests of both Israel and Turkey. The U.S. is interested in a stronger bond between Israel and Turkey, and in its own relations with the two countries. The Turkish business community is invested in this process and at the same time they support the peace process. Turkish economists also promote peace by representing other views in the Arab business world, as they criticize Arab nations, urging them to "Think about economics, not politics!"
Mr. Katribas also agrees with Mr. Eldar that Turkey sides with Hamas and not the PLO. The JDP (Justice and Development Party, the ruling party in Turkey) sees Hamas as a close party, sharing similar ideology. This is, of course, another factor to consider within the larger picture of Israel-Turkey relations.
Col. Moshe Zurich (Ret): The events in the Middle East are changing rapidly. Many nations such as the U.S., Russia, Iran, and some of the Persian Gulf nations have conflicting interests that greatly influence our region.
Strong ties with Turkey and the U.S. are important to Israel, especially in light of the regional turmoil. Israel needs to adjust its policies according to changing realties to better cope with the political hurricanes around, though it is difficult to evaluate the extent these changes will actually have on Israel.
Mr. Yossi Nesher: A journalist, listening to this discussion, would look for the most interesting headline. In this case the headline would be: "The idea of an Israel -- Turkey -- U.S. QIZ, and the process of developing it." A similar QIZ agreement with Jordan was very successful and survived periods of severe political difficulties.
Mr. Nesher asked Dr. Lapidot-Firilla about the situation of the opposition in Turkey. She answered that it was not strong enough to be effective in current Turkish politics.
Dr. Galia Pres - Bar-Natan:Considers the QIZ as a great opportunity to develop the Israeli-Turkish relationship through the economic community to create a more stable foundation for the relationship between the nations.
Also, she wonders as to the U.S.'s interest in a friendly relationship between Israel and Turkey, and will the U.S. be able to help improving it. Dr. Lapidot- Firilla explains that the U.S. has seen T and Israel as the same interest, but is now starting to view them as two separate issues, a division which benefits Turkey rather than Israel. Dr. Lapidot-Firilla, unlike Mr. Ayalon, criticizes the U.S. for not going through with its express policy and especially the Obama administration for not making enough effort to deepen the Israeli-Turkish relationship.
Dr. Piki Ish-Shalom: the Israeli leadership acted carelessly and irresponsibly in its relationship with Turkey. We need to reflect and examine what we did wrong, and if personal affairs are influencing political decisions within the Israeli leadership as well.
Closing the forum meeting, Dr. Glaubach thanked the speakers and participants. He briefly summarized the meeting stating his agreement with Col. Zurich that we need to continuously review the global array of forces, as superpowers such as Russia, the U.S., and even Iran are not likely to give up their quest for influence in this region.