Turkish Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shuttle diplomacy took him to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and it seems he is now coming to understand the tremendous weight of the mission he has taken upon himself….
In order to overcome the inter-Arab crisis, Turkey is trying to push its own two-stage plan. The first stage involves both sides holding their fire, and an international peacekeeping force placed at the Israel-Gaza border modeled after the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon. Turkey is offering its own forces for the job. If the cease-fire holds, the second stage can go into effect, in which Turkey mediates between Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt to draft an Arab agreement for reconciling Hamas and Fatah, after which Palestinian elections may be held.
It may sound like a pipe dream at the moment, but this is the most visionary-realist plan to come out of the Middle East in recent memory. Whatever domestic elements Erdogan may be pandering to, his leadership here is remarkable.
An internationalization of Israel-Palestine may well be the best possible way forward, allowing for both sides to save face in the short run, and for a dulling of the appeal of both Islamist and jingoistic Zionist discourse in the long run.
It’s hard to imagine Barak and Livni wanting to be tarred with inviting Turkish forces onto local soil just before an election. Nonetheless, if true, Erdogan’s offer is both visionary and courageous.