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Dustup At Davos

The BBC story was headlined: Turkish PM storms off in Gaza row.

I readily admit that I could be totally wrong about what happened, but I don’t think too many people have analyzed this story properly.

The location was the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the event was a panel discussion of Gaza.

The Panel:

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations
Secretary General Amr Moussa of the Arab League
President Shimon Peres of Israel
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey

The moderator was columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

It seems to me that whoever came up with this idea assumed that the debate would be between Moussa and Peres, with Ban providing the overall picture and Erdogan taking up Turkey’s role of mediating between Israel and the Arabs. That’s not what happened.

I think the idea that Ignatius was prejudiced against Erdogan because of his Armenian heritage, as suggested in some Turkish media, is wrong. Ignatius reflected the “conventional wisdom of the Village” that he inhabits. He followed the Gaza conflict in the G-rated version that was carried by the Western media sources and didn’t really understand how brutal things were.

That Ban Ki-moon was upset about the loss of people, facilities, and supplies that the UN suffered in Gaza, would have come as no surprise to anyone following the story. Nor should the reaction of Erdogan who watched the situation being reported in gory detail by the Middle Eastern media.

Ignatius decision to change the rules and give Peres twice as much time as the other participants, and allowing no time for a response, is a classic Village media practice, i.e. there is no right or wrong and each side of an issue is presented in a “fair and balanced” way.

Ignatius’s biggest mistake was in referencing “dinner” as a reason that Erdogan had to finish up his comments, as if he missed the point that people were going hungry in Gaza because of the destruction of supplies and the Israeli siege.

Peres’s biggest error was to use the standard Israeli talking point of “What would you do if terrorists were attacking Istanbul?” He apparently forgot that Turkey has been dealing with Kurdish separatists for years, and that Istanbul and most major Turkish cities have been attacked.

Erdogan has a temper, and that is well known. He really should work on controlling it, but he has been under a lot of pressure.

Turkey has done a lot of work attempting to mediate between Israel and its neighbors, and that work rarely receives the credit it deserves. These efforts are not universally approved of in Turkey, so he is paying a political price for them, and some of the frustration was expressed at the panel, i.e. saying to Peres that Hamas is the elected government of the Palestinians and you should be talking to them. He was obviously affected by the pictures of all of the dead children that appeared in the regional media, but were generally not seen in the West. He was obviously frustrated at being on a panel designed not to come to any conclusions.

Some have suggested that he left for political reasons because of local elections in March. That isn’t likely as his actions at this time will probably be forgotten in March by those that approved unless Turkey drops all of its mediation efforts and cuts its ties with Israel, which is unlikely.

In the end, I think he just realized that Davos was really not relevant anymore. Hanging out with the rich and powerful didn’t prevent the global meltdown, so what is the point?

2 comments

1 hipparchia { 01.31.09 at 10:08 pm }

…a panel designed not to come to any conclusions.

that’s what it looks like from here too.

hipparchia´s last blog post..Your ponies have arrived …

2 Bryan { 01.31.09 at 10:50 pm }

I have little patience for “Kumbaya conferences” as I get older. When you have a typical British debate, in the end there is a vote to see who won and who lost. If they wanted to debate the issue, they should have used a standard debate format.

Ban Ki-moon was there with hat in hand trying to get the money to replace what the UN had lost. Why anyone would have imagined that he was going to be non-judgmental about the losses is just beyond me.