Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


Can Ankara Find Peace in Gaza?

In the complex world of international diplomacy, mediating between warring factions stands as one of the most formidable challenges. The conflict between Israel and Hamas exemplifies this, irrespective of the scale or intensity of their clashes. To genuinely achieve peace, there’s an inherent need for a negotiated settlement that aligns with international law and UNSC resolutions.

Yet, the situation seems far from such a resolution. It’s often painted as an insurmountable dilemma. Nevertheless, intervention is indispensable, with third-party mediation appearing as the most viable avenue. This inevitably prompts the question: Who is best positioned to mediate this deeply entrenched conflict? What form should this mediation take? And how can it promptly address the pressing humanitarian concerns?

Mediation isn’t just a matter of intent; it relies heavily on bureaucratic infrastructure and resources earmarked for such endeavors. The mediators themselves play a crucial role, their effectiveness determined by their diplomatic acumen, analytical prowess, and persuasive skills. Empowering these mediators—with intelligence, drafting support, and facilitating contact with relevant parties—is paramount. Tailored capabilities specific to each conflict and the mediator’s overarching strategy are essential to ensure efficacy. However, even the most adept mediator will falter without credibility in the eyes of both the conflicting parties and the influential power players. The decision to mediate needs broad-based support, ensuring its resilience isn’t solely dependent on a single leadership.

Before Hamas’ attack on Israel which saw over 1,000 Israelis killed, the prevailing narrative negated the need for mediation, with dominant voices advocating for a “one-state solution.” Palestinian leaders bore much of the blame, suggesting a phased integration of Palestinians into the Israeli state through ambiguous socio-economic channels. The tragedies befalling Israelis and Palestinians, especially in Gaza, are a poignant reminder of the direness of the situation. The soaring death tolls and immense suffering, particularly in Gaza, are indictments that the world cannot ignore. While the current milieu seems unfavorable for pinpointing an ideal mediator, ruling out any mediation is short-sighted. Assessing the capabilities, credibility, and popular endorsement for such a role, Turkey emerges as a strong possibility.

The present situation mandates innovative thought and a forward-looking approach. Regressing isn’t an option; letting the parties fend for themselves is untenable. Fears of an escalated conflict, with potential regional conflagration, are not unfounded. This calls for a nuanced diplomatic approach, articulated through clear short-, medium-, and long-term objectives. Turkey’s regional expertise and prior mediation endeavors—spanning Syria-Israel, Syria-Iraq, and prior Hamas-Israel disputes, to name a few—place it in good stead to play a pivotal role.

Hakan Fidan, Turkey’s foreign minister, has proposed a guarantor system to stabilize the situation, laying the groundwork for future reconciliation efforts. He envisions Turkey ensuring security and stability in Gaza, fostering a sense of regional ownership. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while being pro-Palestinian, has shown overtures of rapprochement with Israel, evidenced by meetings with Israeli leaders. Fidan’s initial strategy would likely involve proactive diplomacy both regionally and at the UN, fostering dialogue mechanisms with superpowers like the U.S., Russia, and possibly China.

International mediation literature extols the efficacy of ‘biased mediators.’ Despite its pejorative connotation, bias can engender trust, fostering commitment from disputants. Turkey’s engagement with Hamas’ political wing stands as an asset. Fidan’s proposed guarantorship emphasizes the prospects of a negotiated peace, with countries like Qatar already playing pivotal roles in brokering ceasefires. The challenges are monumental, especially with Hamas’ credibility at stake. While a ‘biased mediator’ might seem to lack the impetus to safeguard both parties’ interests, establishing a foundation for talks is more feasible in such settings. Coupled with this, having trusted mediators for both parties expedites the process. The ideal mediation approach would interweave the strengths of biased mediators with the intervention of power mediators like the U.S., ensuring security and underscoring the imperativeness of a peace process.

In light of these developments, Turkey’s unwavering political commitment and societal support for the Palestinian cause are undeniable. Foreign Minister Fidan possesses the requisite diplomatic finesse, underpinned by integrity and candor, to lead this mediation. A potential pitfall is the absence of specialized teams dedicated to mediation. The establishment of a dedicated mediation unit within the Foreign Ministry seems overdue. Backed by broad political and societal consensus, Turkey’s advocacy for Palestine resonates with global sentiments. In the words of the esteemed Sufi poet Rumi, it’s imperative to “raise your words, not your voice.” Pursuing peace won’t only assuage the sufferings of Palestinians and grant security to Israel but also rekindle global optimism in the pursuit of lasting peace.