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Toying with Palestinian nationalism has been the favoured pastime of spoiled Western intellectuals and third world pied pipers of all kinds. But standing for the downtrodden abroad while engaging in oppression at home is not going to make things better for Turkey.

That Palestine still mobilises the masses in a way that Kurdish suffering or Syrian fratricide fail to do is beside the point. The opposing national claims of Israelis and Palestinians have largely been managed for the better part of the last 65 years. The combustible mix of national grievances, civil war, regional turmoil, regime collapse all around and refugees at the gates could plunge Turkey and the entire area into an inferno that no amount of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed has ever precipitated.

Yet, ever the opportunist, Erdogan has learned fast that stoking anti-Israel sentiment is a sure way to gain popularity, both at home and abroad. For Erdogan this is a great opportunity, since Turkey's Islamic credentials make Ankara an appealing alternative for political patronage to both Washington and Tehran. No doubt, there will be rivalries—Egypt is not keen to let Turkey lead the newly-formed Sunni Muslim Brotherhood pack—but Turkey feels it can find a new place in the sun with its new Ottomanism and its careful distancing from its Western alliances. And so the brief but intense love affair between Israel and Turkey is consigned to history, even as Israeli-Turkish bilateral trade continues to grow.

With Israel and Hamas locked again in a deadly struggle, the initial results for the Arab Spring are in and they are not what they promised to be 18 months ago. 

A weak army and a weak economy make it more difficult for Egypt's President Morsi to embrace his base's hatred for Israel and join the fight, depite his natural Islamist instincts. In Turkey, Erdogan has to contend with a border on fire, grumblings at home from increasingly restive minorities and booming business relations with Iran that he will find increasingly hard to control, let alone explain to his Western admirers. There is the distinct possibility that  King Abdullah of Jordan  will be observing his dominion from exile before very long. Syria has to grapple with its regime's primeval cruelty and everyone must deal with the continuing fallout from the Syrian civil war.

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geoff garside
January 5th, 2013
8:01 PM
This is a very long-winded article that doesn't say very much save that Erdogan has reoriented Turkey's position in the world. But we know that. The discussion of nationalism is superficial. The whole poinjt about Erdogan is that he is an opportunist, who stands somewhere between Kemalism and the Turkic (not Turkish) nationalism that now has a place in the AKP ranks (Tv shows about Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkmenistan, the Caucuses etc, folk dance festivals celebrating Turkich culture). There are also concrete examples of Erdogan's playing off different countries against one another or just being unpredicatble - so he is hostile to Israel but perfectly open armed towards american business, especially agribusiness, which is now destroying turkey's agricultural sector and swelling already bloated cities like Istanbul. And what about his 'at least 3 children' family policy?

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