The outbreak of violence over the past few days has put an end to the illusion that the Palestinian issue has been solved and that the region will slide effortlessly into an era of close cooperation between Israel and Arab states.
Soon we will know whether today’s clashes between Jews and Palestinians, between the state of Israel and Hamas, will develop into a broader conflagration, a new intifada that could entangle foreign players, or whether the protagonists will be able to curtail the violence.
All of the region’s countries are caught up in this to some extent, seeking either to contribute to a return to stability or to exploit the turmoil.
For the Israeli government and Hamas, the violence may be an opportunity to marshal support but it raises the danger of their losing control of citizens who are already clashing with each other in the street. For the Arab countries which recently normalized relations with Israel (the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco), the clash is a cause of serious concern for their governments. Like Israel’s immediate neighbors Egypt and Jordan, they will seek a swift return to normality. On the other hand, forces under the control of Iran in Lebanon and Syria will want the opposite.
In recent years, Greece’s relations with Israel and with Arab countries (including Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia) have developed to an impressive degree. Athens therefore has every reason to seek an immediate stabilization of the situation.
Turkey, however, is rushing to become part of the problem. Intensifying his attacks on the Israeli government, the United States and the European Union, Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks once again to project himself as the leader of the world’s Muslims. At the same time, he calls on Vladimir Putin, who is not known for his pro-Islam tendencies, to help get the international community “to teach” Israel a “lesson.” Furthermore, Thursday the head of Turkey’s state religion directorate carried a sword in the Hagia Sophia, where he condemned “Israel’s aggression toward the Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem. (The arrogance of declaring this in what was Christendom’s greatest cathedral and, until recently, a museum, is staggering.)
Erdogan is clearly investing in the crisis getting worse – one more example of the dangerous opportunism which has caused so many problems in the region.