The war in Palestine continues. It is framed especially by Western politicians and media as a conflict between Israel and Hamas. Is that true? Türkiye has proposed to establish a guarantor system on Gaza and presented itself as ready to take responsibility. What does that mean? And, what should the regional countries do in order to prevent an Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip and get the initiative to solve the Palestinian issue.
We asked these questions to Ismail Hakkı Pekin, ret. Lieutenant General and former Head of Intelligence at the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces.
How do you evaluate Hamas’ operation?
This operation has revealed a great intelligence and security weakness on Israel’s side. 100 or 150 Palestinians crossed over, tore down walls, used paragliders and entered Israel, while Israel wasn’t able to respond at all during 4-5 hours. They couldn’t do nothing.
This of course created a great crisis of trust into that defense system that was always considered so well developed and perfect.
Türkiye’s proposal to become a protective power in Gaza
Before getting into the broader context of the conflict. The Turkish government proposed a guarantor system. What is your opinion about that?
One has to ask whose guarantor we will be. They see we will guarantee Palestine’s rights. Then, the other side will also need a guarantee power, which would be the US and Great Britain. If that system is established, and Israel violates the agreement, will Türkiye then enter into an armed conflict with the US? This needs to be defined well: What are the obligations and duties of that status?
For instance, Türkiye is guarantor power in Cyprus. When there was a coup in Cyprus, Türkiye intervened militarily.
Such a system needs a mechanism of dialogue. When the other side starts an operation, communication is needed. In that case, usually the UN comes into play, and we have seen that it didn’t work.
Another point: You can only convince the other side to accept your position as a protective power by force. Therefore, it has been in history always strong powers that assumed such a role. For instance, the Dayton Agreement. The same goes for steps of mediation. You need to be strong, to have coercive power in order to mediate.
And there is of course the danger of Türkiye being pulled into an armed conflict.
The US trying to maintain hegemony in West Asia
Now I would like to ask about the scope of the conflict. Is this a conflict between Israel and Hamas?
Not at all. They reduced the conflict to the level of Israel versus Hamas, just as they claimed the conflict to our north was between Ukraine and Russia. In my opinion, this serves the goal to play with the perceptions of other states.
In this operation, one has to ask what the goals of Hamas were. It is true that there was repression against the Al Aqsa Mosque, and they also succeeded in carrying the Palestinian issue back onto the global agenda.
These objectives and the operation could be considered as tactical. But if you look at the issue from the great power perspective, I think it will have strategic results.
First, the West is very concerned that the war may expand into a regional dimension. One is immediately reminded of the Eastern Mediterranean half that reached from Palestine over Cyprus, to include the Turkish cities of Mersin. In a way, Greater Palestine. So to dominate this region entirely is the issue now.
That is why the United States has sent immediately to aircraft carriers to the region. Washington wanted to fill a power vacuum, afraid that if it didn’t, the axis of Russia, China and Iran would do so.
In such a case, the US-supported system would collapse. Hence, they want to maintain the status quo.
Putin responded by mentioning that the Kinzhal missiles were flying over the Black Sea, able to reach that region. And though not militarily as much present, China has also interests in the region.
This region is very important for the West, as it barriers all the resources. In the recent G-20 summit, they announced a logistics corridor that departs from India, crosses the Arabian Peninsula and arrives in Israel to connect later on to Europe. The port of Ashdod is crucial here. The port of Haifa has been rented to the Chinese and may not be operating at all in future.
This corridor aims to bypass China, Iran and to a certain degree also Türkiye. And I think that such global calculations and plans are also behind the recent conflict.
Therefore, there are the two axes pitted against each other here: On the one side is the US-British-Israeli axis, on the other the Russian-Chinese-Iranian axis.
The Atlantic may plan to turn Israel into a center for trade and energy within that plan. And hence they target the adversaries. Netanyahu for his part already announced that borders would change, imaging himself a smaller Gaza Strip down south. The formal annexation of the Golan heights by Israel might also be on the agenda.
In the recent history, they have divided Iraq, they have divided Syria, they have bombed Libya. Question is, whether they are aiming at Iran right now, whether they want to start something within Iran that later on leads to changing that country’s borders.
To answer your question, this is all an attempt of the US to maintain its famous hegemony and avoid the move of the world’s center from the West to the East.
Overcoming regional differences to stop the US and Israel
What should regional countries do in response?
If we want to solve this problem once at for all, regional countries have to come together, agree and establish a certain institutional mechanism. For instance, if Syria wasn’t in the situation it is, could Israel have had dared such an operation? The same with the Lebanon..
If Türkiye and the regional countries come together, overcome their differences and establish a political unity, then Israel and the US would not dare to act as they do.
But Israel and especially the United States are exploiting the differeces and contradictions among the regional countries, thus separating them further from each other. Divide et impera.
China on the other side, for instance, tries to get the countries closer to each other by using trade and investments. As it did in the case of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
What we need to do is strengthen the centers of the nation states, their central governments. Instead of that, the Turkish government is talking of the “murderer Assad”. We need to change our recent foreign policy and avoid providing the opposing side with trumps it can use to divide us.