“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday fired his visit to post-revolution Tunisia with the kind of trademark warning to Israel that has earned him hero status on his “Arab Spring tour.” After a rapturous welcome in Cairo confirmed the Turkish strongman’s soaring regional popularity, Erdogan came to Tunisia where the wave of pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Arab world all began. He said that Israel could not do whatever it wanted in the eastern Mediterranean and that Turkish warships could be there at any moment. “Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. They will see what our decisions will be on this subject. Our navy attack ships can be there at any moment,” Erdogan told a news conference shortly after arriving in Tunis………“Relations with Israel cannot normalize if Israel does not apologize over the flotilla raid, compensate the martyrs’ families and lift the blockade of Gaza,” Erdogan said. Ankara said it was prepared to escort any future Gaza-bound ship with naval ships……..”
Interesting how the popularity of the non-Arab neighbor leaders soars with the tempo of their anti-Israeli rhetoric. Long ago, there were the Soviets, (although it is hard imagining anyone, even Arabs, getting excited about an old fart like Brezhnev or the dour Kosygin). Then along came Ahmadinejad who went beyond his Iranian predecessors and adopted the old Arab and anti-Semitic theme of Holocaust-baiting. He became wildly popular on the Arab street until the vast semi-official Saudi media, which dominates Arab airwaves and owns most Arab TV screens, started working on him and on their favorite theme of sectarian divisiveness. Ahmadinejad’s other problem is that he represents a theocratic system of governance that most Arabs, be they Sunni or Shi’a or Episcopalian, reject (just as most Arabs reject a system of absolute tribal repressive monarchy). Few Arabs, and probably few Iranians, like the idea of supreme clerical rule.
So now there is a persistent vacuum of leadership in the Arab world, the type of vacuum Ahmadinejad himself had talked about in the past. The Al Saud have tried to fill that vacuum of leadership, to inherit the old regional mantle of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt that nobody could claim. The Saudis have failed even more than the Iranian mullahs, and for the same reason: they both represent regressive regimes, anomalies in this day and age. Iran is a repressive theocracy with quasi-democratic elements; Saudi Arabia is an even more repressive absolute one family dynasty where they pretend that the Quran is their ‘constitution’ while in fact it is the whims and greed of the ruling family that is the ‘constitution’.
Into the vacuum steps Turkey, newly reinvigorated both politically and economically. The Turks have long thought that they belonged in Europe; that their prosperity depended on being part of Europe. Events since the establishment of the Euro Zone indicate that the Turks can do fine without Europe, tyvm. Besides, the agnostic Europeans have a hard time shedding their ethnocentric ‘religious’ and racist prejudices and all the fears of the Siege of Vienna.
Having been rejected by Europe, the Turks have rediscovered their old domain, the Arab World, now the “sick man of the world”. They have also discovered that certain tweaks of their relationship with Israel can be wildly popular on the Arab street, if not in Arab palaces. The Turks are mindful of the growing new rivalry with their old Iranian rivals for places like Iraq and Syria (and possibly the Gulf). The Turks have an even better card: they have a democratic system of government that only two Arab states come even near to matching. And they know when to raise the rhetoric against Israel and when to tone it down, with the help of the Israeli right wing.
Then there is NATO………..