When I met an international relations professor friend of mine right outside the MedyascopeTV studios the day Jared Kushner’s so-called Middle East Peace Plan (MEPP) was announced at the White House, he was furious. A usually calm mannered gentleman who does not shy away from surgically criticising Erdoğan’s foreign policy endeavours, now fumed against the MEPP and bluntly stated that whomever stood with this Israeli government today instead of condemning it squarely would be held accountable historically.  

Following our brief chat, I pushed my hands deep into my coat’s pockets and walked under the pouring rain towards the nearby metro station, my nose pointing at my already soaked shoes. Had I missed something? Was I totally caught off the mark? My political scientist friend was neither a fool nor your regular run-of-the-mill nationalist-islamist. Far from it, he was a most brilliant product of the republican secular public school system of yesteryear.

The reason of my soul searching was that just half an hour ago in the same studio I had dwelled upon MFA press release concerning the MEPP. Yet, on the contrary, just before bumping into my friend at the entrance of the studio, I had on my behalf questioned the timing and the wording of the said press release as part of my weekly video-analysis.

To my mind, the urge to break out of the paddock everyone else for Ankara did not bode well neither for the national foreign policy generally nor particularly for the already strained Turkish-U.S. relations. Already, Erdoğan played all the long balls to Trump, ignoring the administration as well as the Congress. Now, regardless of the content of the MEPP, to take aim at it with terms like “Jerusalem is our red line” and “the plan is stillborn” shouldn’t have been necessary and clever, I thought. 

As Aaron David Miller responded to Christian Amanpour’s question on CNN (I had also cited him in my video-analysis), the U.S. did not need to come out with such a plan at this moment in time. By the same token, Turkey did not need in my opinion to sink this ill-fated, badly written plan without waiting for the interested parties like Jordan and Egypt, or heavy weights like the P-5 members to mumble something about it. The plan to me was a shining toy for Trump’s presidential campaign and Turkish-U.S. relations were reduced to a single conduit through Trump. 

Furthermore, Russia with which Turkey increasingly came to loggerheads in both Syria and Libya, had chosen to sit on the fence. Together with Erdoğan, Netanyahu is the other political leader who almost every other week speaks to or visits with the Russian president. There had been no one to represent Turkey, at the solemn 75th anniversary ceremony of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp organized at Yad Vashem in Israel that had brought together the world’s who’s who. Yet Putin had delivered well listened to remarks, including an invitation for an emergency UNSC meeting, in both Israel and Poland.        

True, Erdoğan later declared that he had received Turkey’s chief rabbi in his presidential palace and that Turkey had no beef with Israel but ignored this particular (i.e. Netanyahu’s) government. He also deplored Arab states diluted reactions to the MEPP. It is to note that together with UAE and KSA, Turkey’s single ally in the Gulf Qatar too had put out a quite moderate statement. Arab League’s foreign ministers later on unanimously rejected the plan in a way vindicating Erdoğan’s posturing. 

So for Erdoğan, Jerusalem is Turkey’s red line, full and square. His foreign minister Çavuşoğlu upped the ante by declaring before the OIC meeting in Jeddah that “even if Turkey stands alone it will defend Jerusalem.” We had defended Jerusalem and we had defended Mecca and Medina as well, but in the beginning of the last century. My own great grandfather had “defended” for example Trabzon wilaya (against the Russians) that extended from today’s Ordu to Batumi at the time serving as the regional governor. Are we really ready and so much willing to bath in the same river at the turn of this century as well?      

Erdoğan got into the habit of openly shaming and blaming the Arab world lately, especially singling out UAE and KSA for their alleged betrayal and silence. By taking an irreversible harsh stance on the MEPP at this very early stage he deliberately chose to take the risk of alienating both Washington and Moscow simultaneously and leave Turkey with no room to manoeuver. 

Last but not the least, Erdoğan’s rhetoric tends to ignore the fact he is the president of a secular and non-Arab republic. “If we do not protect Al-Aqsa, we will not prevent evil eyes from turning towards the Kaaba”-these are his words. Whose “evil eyes” are we talking about here? Who is “we” anyway? Which body of nations Erdoğan is alluding to as if there is any? Or is he talking about the “umma”, positioning himself as a sort of “emir-ul muminin” as the Ottoman khalifa of the lore? 

I have no single bit of sympathy at all for this ridiculous Trumpian unilateral MEPP that makes a mockery of diplomacy and the Palestinian land. But I do worry about the fact that Turkey carries no weight to dictate its will upon all the rest of the world. For that matter, no other power, be it regional or global, not even the U.S. enjoys that sort of latitude. There is no need for Ankara to constantly pick unnecessary fights while in the meantime there is no shortage of conflicts that Turkey’s national security all around it.     

On his way back from his recent three countries Africa visit Erdoğan applauded Gambia’s (of all the places) principled stance on Rohingya Muslims. One as well may visit the Turkish MFA’s website to wonder on the multitude of the press releases that pass judgment on about everything and anything that goes on around our globe as if sitting on a high moral chair. At the same time Erdoğan’s administration demands to be exempt of any criticism, internal or foreign. Why? “You have no right” comes the reply.