- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

The full-page ad in sparkling color on a recent New Yorker magazine back cover was selling the charm of Turkey’s premier city, Istanbul, which the ad called “the city of eternal romance.” Under an artistic headline, “Turkey welcomes you,” it showed a handsome, smiling Western couple ambling along what I supposed must be the Black Sea waterfront.

“There is so much happening today in Istanbul,” read the ad copy. And it sure is. But not all that’s happening is good for the tourism Turkey wants, let alone for the admission into the European Union it seeks.

The Turkish government, supposedly a friend of Israel, has yet to recover from having formally invited and received last month a five-man delegation of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist cabal, headed by Khaled Meshaal.

Israel protested Turkey’s treating Mr. Meshaal as an honored guest. Apparently, Turkey, which is not an Arab state, never heard the old Russian saying: You can’t dance at two weddings. (Turkey was the first Muslim state to recognize Israel and have enjoyed excellent relations since.)

Israelis have asked how Turkish government would react were Israel to ask Ankara to release from a Turkish prison cell Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the pro-Kurdish PKK terrorist group, for diplomatic negotiations?

This is not an idle question. Turkey has accused Israel of arming and training Iraq’s Kurds aimed at creating an independent Kurdish state, a putative lodestar to Turkey’s Kurds.

Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, a leader who brought the somnolent, backward Ottoman kingdom into the 20th century, would have thought twice before double-crossing a friendly power like Arab-beleaguered Israel.

Mr. Meshaal, in the meantime, has made it quite clear the Hamas electoral victory does not mean, let alone even imply, an end to Hamas’ code of terrorism or that violence against Israel will be renounced. The Turkish government’s uneasiness, engendered by its relations with Hamas, was noted in that a scheduled meeting between Mr. Meshaal and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan never happened. Instead, the Hamas delegation met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Turkish government has shown a surprising fatuousness, judging by Mr. Gul’s statement that since Hamas “won a democratic election, from now on it must act in a democratic way.” If Mr. Gul believes Hamas will act democratically because it won an election, then would-be sellers of the Brooklyn Bridge please form a line on the right and meet Mr. Gul.

In too many newly emerging countries, the operational political slogan has been: “one man, one vote, one time.” And in the case of the Hamas electoral victory and a chance for a peaceful Middle East, I would add One Big Zero.

Arnold Beichman, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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