Rocket attacks on Israel perpetrated by the so-called Omar Brigades, evoked the familiar diatribe “Israel has the right to defend itself,” and “"we will hold Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip” to the chagrin of Israeli critics. Despite fears that Israel is preparing to level Palestinian homes and kill sores of Palestinian civilians thanks to this stereotypical rhetoric, the reality that Israel’s retaliatory strikes have not resulted in any causalities is an encouraging sign that Israel is showing much needed restraint.
Given Hamas appears to be battling the Omar Brigades, punitive airstrikes on Hamas targets are both ineffective and counterproductive, especially when considering Hamas, or any Palestinian body for that matter, is already struggling to provide security against radical Islamist Salafist groups. Targeted strikes against these supporters of the Islamic States are, however, beneficial to both Israel and the Palestinians People in terms of national security. Defending the Palestinian People also helps transform Israel from an enemy in the eyes of Muslims to a protector.
Remarks from Israel Defence Force Major General Sami Turgeman proclaiming Israel would not engage in a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip over a small number of rockets fired from the Palestinian territory appears to support a shift in Israeli military thinking. This could be a sign of progress despite condemnation of Israel’s recent reprisals. Although Hamas is still the enemy of Israel, the fact that people like General Turgeman are willing to acknowledge Hamas is trying stop rocket attacks demonstrates real process in how Israel responds to national security threats.
The imminent threat of the Islamic State and its affiliates could be awakening the sensibility of Israel’s war hawks. The Islamic States and its affiliates are a security threat to both Israel and Hamas, so Israel needs to avoid a fight with its traditional rival in order to prevent the Gaza Strip from collapsing into a safe haven for ISIL.
The obvious goal of the Islamic States is to gain popular support in the Middle East and aligning itself against Israel in a war on the Palestinians People is a way of doing just that. Not only must Israel be careful avoid to stoking anti-Israeli sentiments by demonstrating a total lack of concern for the lives of the Palestinians when retaliating against rocket attacks, it must also avoid sending the wrong message.
With that in mind, Turkey faces a similar dilemma as Israel. Sadly, the Turkish government has spent decades disempowering their Kurdish minority, which is a common theme seen in Iraq, Syria, and Iran as well. Weekend elections have, however, revealed diminished support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) amid growing support for the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which has suddenly given Turkish Kurds ownership in their own government.
That said, it is in the interests of the Islamic State to destabilize Turkey. This goal can be achieved by pitting the Turkish government against the Kurdish Peshmerga. Where the Kurdish fighters have been the most effective against the Islamic State, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have finally managed to start coopering in order to defeat the Islamic State. If Israel can avoid being seen as too anti-Palestinian, there is a chance the powerful militaries of Israel and Egypt could join the Saudi Coalition. This would help unify the Middle East against the Islamic State and boost regional security going forward.
If Erdogan chooses to alienate the Kurds or the government falls apart over the representation of the Kurds, what progress is being made will be undermined by political instability inside Turkey, i.e. what happen in Iraq. Recognizing the weak control over Kurdish territory in Syria and Iraq, the added bigotry of the Turkish government and the flagrant rebuff of democratic justice would likely push the Kurds of the region to unite and form their own nation. Clearly, the instability this could cause would undermine efforts to counteract the Islamic State.
Not only must President Erdogan overcome temptations to circumvent the democratic outcome of the elections by finding “legal” ways to suppress the parliamentarian powers of the Kurds, he must avoid sending a message that he and his political allies are willing to plunge Turkey into chaos instead of working with the Kurds. In other words, he must do whatever it takes to form a government with whatever partners are willing. Moreover, Israel and Turkey must turn their rivals into allies.
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