Turkey had been doing so well in regional diplomacy. Friends with both the Palestinian Authority and with Israel, it has done some good for relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. But Prime Minister Erdogan quickly changed all that yesterday in Davos. Israeli President Shimon Perez explained his country’s actions in Gaza, and after that Erdogan demanded time to speak. Referring to why Perez spoke in a high voice (according to Erdogan: ‘That’s a sign of a guilty conscience’) and calling him names and telling him: ‘You kill people, you kill people’. When the chair person didn’t give him time to speak, he got up and said he was finished with Davos and wouldn’t come back.
Honestly, when I heard about this, I thought the person who told me had had too much to drink, because this could not be true. But it was true. Erdogan let his personal feelings and his Muslim identity get the upper hand. It might be good for the upcoming local elections, but how selfish is that? When the whole Gaza violence started, Erdogan was already reacting even more strongly than any Arab leader. Turkey really could have made a difference in international diplomacy, but now that leading role is surely over.
It is said that Erdogan’s wife Emine, who was there in Davos, shed some tears over her husband’s outburst. Out of pride, I’m afraid.
Postscipt: Later that night, Erdogan arrived back in Istanbul. He was cheered by thousands of Turks waving Turkish and Palestinian flags. Also present was the mayor of Istanbul,, who is from the same party as Erdogan and who is running for mayor again in the upcoming local elections in March. He openly supported Erdogan’s actions in Davos and in addition made public transport to and from the airport free of charge and available until later at night than usual. The road to Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul was also open to supporters. I think if you really care about the deaths in Gaza, modesty would be more suitable than this show. Now the fatalities in Gaza are being used shamelesly in the AKP election campaign.