On April 29, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first visit to Israel as Secretary of State. This is how Prime Minister Netanyahu started off their joint press conference:
“Secretary Pompeo, it’s wonderful to welcome you.
“This is your first visit to Israel as Secretary of State. I think it’s significant that you chose, as did the President, to include Israel on this important itinerary. I think it’s symbolic of our friendship, which is deep and getting even deeper and stronger.
With the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire taking hold last Friday, the 11-day Gaza conflict is hopefully over.
By and large, this latest episode also conformed to the pattern of Gaza confrontations. There were clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites; Israel reacted with force to Hamas rockets; Gaza suffered devastation; divided Palestinian leadership called for an end to subjugation and occupation; UN Secretary General and some countries urged de-escalation; Arab governments expressed indignation; and a senior US diplomat traveled to the region to help achieve a cease-fire.
In my last post I tried to highlight the roller-coaster pattern of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
In his New York Times article of May 14, titled “Arab World Condemns Israeli Violence but Takes Little Action”, Eric Erlanger started off with the following:
“The Arab world is unified in condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the way the Israeli police invaded Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Governments have spoken out, protests have taken place, social media is aflame.
“But by and large the condemnation is only words, not actions — at least so far.”
Palestinians remain more than frustrated with the status quo and in the absence of any progress towards the two-state solution their discontent usually hits the surface in the form of some violence. And whenever there is violence, Israel says that it will not tolerate incitement, terrorism and reacts with disproportional force; Palestinian leadership calls for an end to subjugation and occupation; UN Secretary General urges calm; Arab governments express indignation; they remember the Arab League; the Quartet issues a statement advising restraint; the EU expresses concern: finally, either the US Secretary of State or some other high official travels to the region to find a way out because such violence always puts Washington on the spot by virtue of its unique relationship with Israel. And a roller-coaster pattern of violence goes on.
The “rules-based international order” is now a recurrent theme in policy statements by senior officials of the Biden administration.
Secretary Blinken, meeting with his Chinese counterparts in Anchorage on March 18, 2021, started the talks by saying that the rules-based international order is not an abstraction; that it helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively, and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules; that the alternative to a rules-based order would be a far more violent and unstable world for everyone.
During my years at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I sometimes asked the ambassadors in Ankara how they viewed their job in our capital since they usually stressed Turkey’s location as a unique observation post for the broad region. Many said, “never a dull moment”. I always responded that I was hoping for the day when the answer would be “boredom”, and we laughed. Because, while Turkey’s geostrategic location is an asset, it comes at a price. The end of the Cold War was a relief. But with the wars in Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and the first Gulf War, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in the middle of three major conflict areas. There was a refugee flow from Bosnia to Turkey. Our trade with Europe was disrupted. The Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline remained closed for years. Our trade with Iraq and the Gulf suffered. Energy projects in the Caucasus became more complicated. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the Arab spring created new challenges.