Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way?

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If two million Palestinians in the West Bank deserve a state, what of the 18 million Kurds in the region who have endured 100 years of persecution?

This is the tantalising question posed by Israeli analyst Dr. Guy Bechor who argues that Turkey should be careful what it advocates on behalf of Palestinians as it seeks regional popularity and leadership.

Rather than securing Mideastern hegemony, Turkey itself may fall apart. This is the case after the Kurdish leadership in the country declared on July 15 the establishment of a democratic Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey, with its capital in Diyarbakir.

This declaration stunned the Turkish leadership. A day earlier, 13 Turkish soldiers were killed by the Kurdish underground, PKK; yet such acts are characterized by the Turks as terror that must be fought. This time they are dealing with a political declaration and a huge area that no longer wishes to be under Turkish rule. Don't the Turks think that the Kurds deserve what the Palestinians deserve? Coping with terrorism is easy; facing political rebellion is very hard.

So how did Turkey respond to this act of national self-determination?

When Erdogan heard about the declaration he was furious, as the possible future implication of this is Turkey's collapse. Turkish prosecutors then undertook an illogical step, declaring that they will indict all participants in the declaration ceremony, a move that will get Turkey in trouble with the world. The Turks were also mulling the dismissal of Kurdish parliamentarians in Ankara. These were desperate moves. The Turks can address violence and refer to it as terror, but what can they do against politicians?

Turkey, however, is not the only country that should be wary of an ambitious minority.

...in Syria, that very same day, we saw another important development. For the first time, a Kurdish liaison committee was established that brings together all the new Kurdish parties in Syria on the basis of the "Kurdish people's unity." They demand Kurdish autonomy in the wake of the Assad regime or at least a federation within Syria.

The Syrian Kurds enjoy a particularly sympathetic home front in the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. Slowly, the pieces of the Turkish [sic Kurdish] puzzle in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran are connecting into a giant state that will be home to 18 million people. At this time already, the Kurdish region of Iraq is in fact a state with its own flag, leadership and sovereignty. In Iran too, the Kurds are rebelling and closely monitoring the progress achieved by their brethren in neighboring countries. Autonomy in one place will draw a demand for autonomy and sovereignty elsewhere.

And the coda?

The Kurdish state will be a close ally of Israel, just like South Sudan. The Kurds are close to Israel and view it as a twin sister with a difficult history and non-Arabic identity. What we see are four states hostile to Israel in one way or another that will have to fall apart in order to give rise to an ally of Israel.

Allon Lee

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