Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don't Panic - Israel is not so isolated

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 114, September 14, 2010, by Prof. Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
Israel is not nearly as diplomatically isolated as its critics from within and without would have us believe; thus, Israeli diplomacy and security policies should not be dictated by panic over such “isolation.”

By ascribing exaggerated importance to the Palestinian issue, and by inflating assessments of Israel’s isolation, the Israeli (and Diaspora Jewish) left advocate an urgent deal with the Palestinians, at a heavy Israeli price.

A calmer, more realistic assessment of Israel’s situation – attempted below – calms unwarranted fears and can help lead to sober positions on issues of war and peace.

Introduction
Many Israelis feel that Israel is once more alone and that the Jewish state is increasingly isolated in the international community. An August 2010 poll shows that on the question of Israel's current status in the international arena, a majority of the Jewish public thinks Israel is moderately or completely isolated (54%), compared to 46% who say it is not isolated. A similar poll among Diaspora Jews would likely reveal an even more acute feeling of isolation, because as a minority Diaspora Jews are more exposed to anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes. Taking into consideration the many examples of the negative media coverage of Israel, such feelings in Israel and in the Diaspora are understandable. Indeed, the infamous Goldstone Report and the “Gaza flotilla” incident, among other events, provide ample evidence of a hostile international climate regarding Israel.

Moreover, the Israeli left argues vocally that the continuation of the conflict with the Palestinians exacts a heavy price from Israel; that Israel is becoming an isolated and less legitimate political entity. Yet, this claim reflects a distorted view of reality. The hard left is influenced primarily by its reference groups – the Western left and its radical offshoots. Ascribing exaggerated importance to the Palestinian issue, and to Israel’s isolation, they advocate an urgent deal with the Palestinians at a heavy Israeli price.

The partisans on the left are wrong. A closer look at Israel’s interactions with many states in the world in which real power resides, and with international organizations (not nearly as powerful), explains why. A calm and careful review of the situation provides a more nuanced and much less pessimistic picture.

Wider Israeli diplomatic presence
Take the number of states that have diplomatic relations with Israel. This measure clearly shows an improvement in Israel’s international status, particularly since 1973. Then, with the energy crisis, the power of the Arab world was at its zenith. Subsequently, Israel experienced an avalanche of severed diplomatic relations. This has drastically changed, particularly after 1991, when an increasing number of states decided to establish and/or upgrade diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. For example, all states within the Soviet orbit, in former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, as well as most African and Asian states opted for diplomatic relations. Significantly, rising powers such as China and India, and pivotal states such as Russia, Turkey, and Nigeria decided to have full diplomatic relations with Israel, which have been maintained ever since.

Generally, states facing the challenges of terrorism and/or radical Islam, mostly a post-1991 phenomenon, seek cooperation with Israel. The Jewish state has much to offer in the area of intelligence and tactical and doctrinal counter-terrorism. Because of the growing Islamist threat, the number of states seeking security relations with the Jewish state is on the rise. There are many countries that fall into this category, and the Israeli-Palestinian intractable conflict hardly deters them from useful interactions with Israel.

Improved relations with Muslim states
Significantly, relations with the Muslim world have improved. Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Israel has oscillating informal dealings with several Arab states in the Gulf and in the Maghreb. Most of the Arab world adheres to the Arab League Peace Initiative. While this peace plan is not reasonable from an Israeli perspective (it is a take it or leave it proposal), the Arabs are talking peace, not war, and imply a de facto recognition of Israel – a historic change in their position. The Arab economic boycott has largely evaporated. It is the Iranian nuclear threat that puts any differences with Israel over the Palestinian issue on a side burner.

Israel also has cordial and fruitful relations with Muslim states that emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. Israeli presence is well felt in states such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Muslim identity of these populations and their elites does not hinder relations with Jerusalem in areas important to their national interests. Their sensitivity to the imagined or real misfortunes of the Palestinians is very low.

The US and rising powers
Similarly, diplomatic ties with the most important country in the world, the US, have greatly improved since 1973 and the strategic relationship is still very strong, despite the misguided Middle Eastern policies of the Barack Obama administration. For the past four decades, the level of American public support for Israel has remained remarkably stable (about 65%). This translates, of course, into congressional support. Israel is still popular in the US primarily because of how it is perceived and not because of the Jewish lobby. We have recently seen President Obama bow to this popular sentiment and adopt a friendlier posture toward the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu.

A high level of friendship toward Israel and the Jewish people characterizes the two most populous and dynamic states on the world scene – India and China – rising powers in every sense of the word. Both are old civilizations that have not been burdened by anti-Semitic baggage, like Europe. They treat the Jewish State with reverence as they see in it a similar old civilization that has had remarkable achievements. Most Asian countries, even if they vote against Israel in international forums, have a similar attitude. Likewise, countries on the Pacific Rim, an area that has gained international significance, are usually pro-Israel. South Korea and Australia are prime examples. Sub-Saharan African countries also contain very pro-Israel circles for a variety of reasons.

European attitudes
Old Europe" is indeed a different planet on this matter. Its na├»ve strategic culture, where there is no threat perception and the use of force is seen as anachronistic, makes Israel a difficult case to swallow. This is reinforced by latent traditional anti-Semitism that singles out the Jews as responsible for the problems of the world. Belgium, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden, in particular, display anti-Israeli positions bordering on anti-Semitism. Fortunately, none are core European states. Some European universities have become unpleasant places for Israelis, and a large portion of the European intelligentsia is intuitively anti-Israel, even denying Israel’s right to exist. It is also true that much of the elite European media is hysterically biased against Israel.

At the same time France, Germany, and Italy (the power centers of the European Union) are ruled nowadays by leaders that have a soft spot for Israel. Influential pockets of strong pro-Israeli sentiment are still present in all Western European states. Some even view Israel’s struggle as a vanguard of their own beleaguered Western civilization, threatened by moral relativism and Islamic fanaticism. The growing fears of Muslim immigration in the Old Continent provide an important corrective on the prism of Israel.

Then there’s the expansion of the European Union that has worked in Israel’s favor. "New Europe," the Eastern European states, is very different from the Western part of Europe. Its strategic culture is dominated by a historic threat perception from Russia; as a result, it is more understanding of the dilemmas associated with the necessary use of force by Israel. So is small Finland.

Little evidence of growing Israeli isolation
Generally, most states are not ready to have their relations with Jerusalem held hostage by the vicissitudes of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. We can also detect the beginning of weariness with the Arab-Israeli conflict and an attitude reminiscent of “a plague on both your houses.” Some have even begun to realize that the Palestinians have a stake in not ending the conflict and in propagating the victim image to continue to get financial support from gullible Western donors.

Most international forums remain rabidly anti-Israel and Israel continues to be singled out as the culprit of a variety of “sins.” But as no real change has taken place in the anti-Israel arena in past decades, it is difficult to conclude that Israel’s position has worsened in such international organizations. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the UN rescinded the 1975 UN General Assembly Resolution terming Zionism – the Jewish national movement – racist. This year Israel was also accepted into the exclusive club of the OECD, which is a significant diplomatic feat. The OECD brings together the 33 most developed countries in the world that are committed to democracy and the market economy.

A growing and real problem for Israel is the phenomenon of “lawfare,” whereby anti-Israel groups exploit the legal system of Western states to criminalize Israel and Israeli government officials in these states and in international forums. Several states have been sensitized to this issue and have taken legislative actions to remedy the situation. This is particularly true of states operating military forces beyond their borders, such as the US, UK, or France, which could one day face similar challenges. Another growing challenge to Israel's legitimacy comes from NGOs that single out Israel for alleged human rights abuses. The real impact this has on Israel's international status is not yet clear.

Isolation in the international community, the literature shows, is more often than not connected to the international power configuration. Obviously, normative considerations have little impact on the decision making of the authoritarian states that deplore the human rights “abuses” of Israel. Indeed, the growing weakness of the US, particularly since the advent of President Obama, has exposed its small ally, Israel to somewhat harder times.

Nevertheless, taking into account that Israel cannot benefit from an association with a big international bloc, such as the developing countries or the Muslim bloc, or with regional blocs such as Latin America, Europe, or Asia, Israel is doing quite well on the international scene. Moreover, the world has shown that it can live with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years.

Conclusion
Jews are historically conditioned to sense isolation and de-legitimization. Already in the Bible, the prophet Balaam called the Jewish nation “a people that dwells alone.” Today, according to a recent poll, 56% of the Israeli Jewish public believes that "the whole world is against us." Yet, a larger majority (77%) thinks it makes no difference what Israel does and how far it may go on the Palestinian issue; the world will continue to be very critical of it. While the Jewish prism on international relations could amplify this sense of isolation, the realistic outlook on international relations can prevent unwarranted fears and lead to a balanced Israeli position on issues of war and peace.

Abbas in Wonderland


From Ynet News, 12 Sept 2010, by Martin Sherman [channelling Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka, reincarnated...]:

Obama, after the "pragmatic" Palestinians have repudiated any idea of "historic compromise," [and] any recognition of Jewish national sovereignty:
"…so far the talks are moving forward in a constructive way…"
You couldn’t make this stuff up!

...It has been an almost inconceivable spectacle, beginning with the Israeli prime minister traveling to Washington to express his resolve and commitment to implement a policy that he has repeatedly repudiated – and ridiculed - for over a decade and a half.

Even more astonishing is the fact that he did so not because his earlier criticism was proven unfounded in any way, but despite the fact that it was proven well founded in every way; not because his previous warnings that the policy would herald disaster were proven wrong but despite the fact that they were proven right.

Yet the absurdity does not end here. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Middle East politics things get "curiouser and curiouser."

No less astounding than Netanyahu's acquiescence to discuss the implementation of the very policy he correctly predicted would fail, is the identity of the "partner" with whom he assented to do so.

The Palestinian negotiation team is led by Mahmoud Abbas, someone who has neither the formal legality (since his terms of office has expired) nor the political legitimacy (since his authority in not recognized by a sizeable segment of the electorate) to do so.

And then enter Hamas. With an impeccable sense of timing, Abbas' radical adversaries carried out two brutal terror attacks on Israelis, dramatically demonstrating that the man Netanyahu has incongruously deemed “my-partner-in-peace” cannot control events in the areas he purports to administer- underscoring both the impotence of the Palestinian "partner" and pointlessness of negotiating with him.

...what would be the value of an agreement... if there is no guarantee that the Palestinian signatories will be any position to honor or enforce them, even assuming they desire to do so?

Abbas wants to shape Israel
And just to drive home the absurdity and futility of the entire exercise, after explicitly rejecting Netanyahu's call for a "historic compromise," Abbas pronounced categorically that
"we won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state," as to do so would "block any chance of Palestinian refugees from returning to their original homes inside Israel."
This was reiterated the very next day by senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath... ...by obdurately insisting on the "right of return," they make it quite clear that the only agreement acceptable to them is one that would [destroy Israel].

...Indeed, Abbas' demands are not restricted to shaping the future state of Palestine...[as] Judenrein with all the Jewish "settlements" evacuated and all the Jewish settlers expelled...

His demands extend to shaping the character of the State of Israel and to what the composition of its population should be ...millions of non-Jewish Palestinian "refugees..." from third-party countries ....

Like I said: You couldn’t make this stuff up!

...And if anyone thought that matter could not get any more farcical ...Obama issued his latest exhortation for Netanyahu to make another gesture and extend the soon-to-expire building freeze. His reasoning: After the "pragmatic" Palestinians have repudiated any idea of making an "historic compromise" and any recognition of Jewish national sovereignty 60 years after Israel's establishment, was:
"…so far the talks are moving forward in a constructive way, it makes sense to extend that moratorium so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way."
You couldn't make this stuff up! Or have I said that before?

Iranian regime continues to crumble: Rafsanjani attacks Ahmadinejad

Washington Post Foreign Service, Tuesday, September 14, 2010, by Thomas Erdbrink*:

TEHRAN, IRAN - An influential former Iranian president on Tuesday criticized the government in unusually blunt terms, saying that it is not taking U.S.-led sanctions seriously enough and that Iran could become a "dictatorship."

The remarks by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani represent a rebuke of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though Rafsanjani did not mention him by name. Rafsanjani was also quoted by the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency as indirectly saying that the government is not adhering to the Islamic Republic's laws.

Ahmadinejad and his supporters have been under increasing pressure from multiple power centers in Iran.

A series of public disagreements between Ahmadinejad's government and the parliament, influential clerics and even some of the president's own ministers have led to a crisis atmosphere, which has heightened political tensions in the country.

The government has said the sanctions stemming from Iran's controversial nuclear program have strengthened the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad has called them "pathetic" and less effective than "a used handkerchief." But business owners complain that the prices of raw materials are skyrocketing because of shortages.

"We have never been faced with so many sanctions," Rafsanjani said at a meeting of an influential clerical council. "I would like to ask you and all the country's officials to take the sanctions seriously and not as a joke."

Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad have long been rivals, and Rafsanjani was considered a behind-the-scenes force in the Green Movement that challenged the government after last year's disputed elections.

His words could be an opening shot that allows lower-level politicians to increase pressure on the president. Already, members of parliament are hinting at a possible impeachment motion against Ahmadinejad.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for a special mediation council to solve rising problems between the government and the parliament.

Rafsanjani warned that a "fifth column" was posing as supporters and enemies of Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad's supporters have tried to purge Rafsanjani from the establishment, but he has strongly aligned himself with Khamenei, who in turn has publicly supported the president.

Speaking out during a meeting of the 86-member Assembly of Experts, a clerical council, Rafsanjani also deplored violent groups that in recent months have besieged houses of prominent clerics, the parliament and shops in the Tehran bazaar.

Calling those groups a "poison for the country," Rafsanjani warned that "the enemy must be stopped . . . before we will face problems at the core."

*Special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie contributed to this report.

US massively arm Saudis against Iran

From: The Australian & The Times September 15, 2010:

WASHINGTON: The US is finalising the largest arms deal in its history: a $US60 billion ($64bn) package of fighter jets and helicopter gunships for Saudi Arabia...

...To put the deal's $US60bn price tag in context, however, total US arms sales between 2001 and 2008 were $US155bn.

Serious reservations are inevitable among senators who will view the deal as a challenge for Israel and the balance of power in the Middle East...

...However, the Israelis are buying the US's even more advanced F35 Joint Strike Fighter and will retain the military edge. Also absent from the Saudi package is the most sophisticated standoff long-range missiles for the F15s.

 "We appreciate the administration's efforts to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge, and we expect to continue to discuss our concerns," said Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US.

The US also hopes to expand Saudi Arabia's defences as a deterrent to Iran's burgeoning medium-range ballistic missiles.

Boeing estimates that the deal will safeguard or create 77,000 US jobs.

But Aljazeera, in a shoddy op-ed by Teymoor Nabili in Middle East, on September 14th, 2010  complains ...about what?...

...Ignoring the fact that miltary aircraft ...are prettty [sic] much useless against a nuclear missile, especially one that does not exist, $60bn buys a mind boggling amount of firepower, so that must mean that Saudi Arabia's military capacity right now is woefully insufficent compared to Iran's, right?

Er, no.

Saudi military spending already dwarfs Iran's by a factor of six. Indeed, by head of population, Saudi is the world's biggest purchaser of military hardware.

... Iran's military is only superior in terms of manpower numbers.

So if Iran's intention is to send waves of soldiers marching across the desert, then maybe Saudi has something to fear. [Yes, and they've done it before: sending hundreds of thousands of pubescent boys to their deaths in the desert minefields, with plastic "keys to paradise" around their necks, in the war with Iraq - SL]

...the suggestion that Riyadh has something to fear from Tehran is laughable. [No, this op-ed is what's laughable - SL]

... the suggestion that Iran is keen to invade Saudi Arabia makes even less sense than the suggestion that Tehran intends to attack Israel.... the Arab world is much more concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than any Iran issue. [ha ha ha  - who are you kidding??? - SL]

And, as a major survey of the Arab public opinion [which survey?] found recently, the Arab majority ... is in fact very sympathetic of Iran's right to nuclear technology, with a majority saying a nuclear-armed Iran may in fact be a good thing for the region.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Echoes of a Shofar" - according to PA TV: "sin and filth"

From ToldotYisrael, September 02, 2010:

...Under a British law in Palestine passed in 1930, Jews were forbidden to blow the shofar at the Kotel, pray loudly there, or bring Torah scrolls, so as not to offend the Arab population.

Despite this restriction, for the next seventeen years, the shofar was sounded at the Kotel every Yom Kippur. Shofars were smuggled in to the Kotel where brave teenagers defiantly blew them at the conclusion of the fast. Some managed to get away - others were captured and sent to jail for up to six months.

Six of these men are still alive.

Two weeks ago, these six men returned to the scene of their "crime". Armed with shofars, they recounted their individual stories and blew shofar again at the Kotel.

This is their powerful and inspiring story.




From a PMW Bulletin, Sept. 14, 2010, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik:

On the Jewish New Year, PA TV broadcast a documentary showing Jews praying at the Western Wall while the narrator called it "sin and filth."

The same program also described Jewish history as "false."

PA TV narrator:
"They [Israelis] know for certain that our [Palestinian] roots are deeper than their false history. We, from the balcony of our home, look out over [Islamic] holiness and on sin and filth [Jews praying at the Western Wall]."
[PA TV (Fatah), Sept. 10, 2010]

Even if Abbas wants an agreement (doubtful), he simply doesn't have the authority

From The Washington Post, Friday, September 10, 2010, by Charles Krauthammer:

The prospects are dim but the process is right.

...we're leaving behind interim agreements, of which the most lamentable were the Oslo accords of 1993.

The logic then was that issues so complicated could only be addressed step by step ...Israel made concrete concessions -- bringing in Yasser Arafat to run the West Bank and Gaza -- in return for which Israel received growing threats, continuous incitement and finally a full-scale terror war that killed more than a thousand innocent Israelis.

Among the victims was the Israeli peace movement and its illusions about Palestinian acceptance of Israel. The Israeli left, mugged by reality, is now moribund.

...[NOW] No interim deals, no partial agreements.  ... if Israel gives up its dream of a united Jerusalem, for example, the Palestinians in return give up their dream of the right of return.

...What's under discussion is a final settlement of the conflict. Meaning, no further claims. Conflict over.

What's standing in the way? Israeli settlements? Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, one of Israel's most nationalist politicians, lives in a settlement and has said openly that to achieve peace he and his family would abandon their home. What about the religious settlers? Might they not resist? Some tried that during the Gaza withdrawal, clinging to synagogue rooftops. What happened? Jewish soldiers pulled them down and took them away. If Israel is offered real peace, the soldiers will do that again.

The obstacle today, as always, is Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state. That has been the core issue of the conflict from 1947 [actually from 1921 - SL] ....

...Unfortunately, there's no more sign today of a Palestinian desire for final peace than there was at Camp David. Even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants such an agreement (doubtful but possible), he simply doesn't have the authority.

To accept a Jewish state, Abbas needs some kind of national consensus behind him. He doesn't even have a partial consensus. Hamas, which exists to destroy Israel, controls part of Palestine (Gaza) and is a powerful rival to Abbas's Fatah even in his home territory of the West Bank.

Indeed, this week Abbas flatly told al-Quds, the leading Palestinian newspaper, "We won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state." Nice way to get things off on the right foot...

Dissident group says Iran has secret nuclear facility

From the Washington Post, September 9, 2010, by Greg Miller:


Satellite image of site alleged to be a previously undisclosed nuclear facility in Iran. (Courtesy DigitalGlobe and Globalsecurity.org).


An Iranian dissident group said on Thursday that it has identified a previously undisclosed nuclear facility under construction northwest of Tehran, claiming to have evidence that shows the Islamic nation is deceiving inspectors and moving forward in its pursuit of a bomb.

...The information was presented by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, a group that has been on the mark in the past in exposing Iranian nuclear activities, including the identification in 2002 of a large centrifuge installation at Natanz.

But U.S. officials have greeted some of the organization's other claims with skepticism, and note that it has for years been on a State Department list of designated terrorist organizations.

"This facility has been under construction for years, and we've known about it for years. While there's still some ambiguity about its ultimate purpose - not unusual for something that's still taking shape - there's no reason at this point to think it's nuclear," a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Iranians put military stuff in tunnels, too. People should be cautious about reaching conclusions here."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed late last year that Tehran would build 10 new sites to enrich uranium. No evidence has surfaced yet to indicated that any of those facilities have been built.

...Noting that Iran had told the IAEA last year that there were no other nuclear facilities under construction, another group spokesman, Alireza Jafarzadeh, said, "Iranian officials were lying through their teeth."

Still, experts expressed skepticism about the new allegations.

"We saw nothing in the images that suggests a centrifuge plant," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security. "There are many underground facilities in Iran."

The Mujaheddin group aims to overthrow of the government in Tehran, and has lobbied to have the State Department terrorist label removed...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Islamists Tighten Their Grip on Turkey as Erdogan Extends Powers Over Courts and Army

From Bloomberg, September 12, 2010, by Benjamin Harvey and Steve Bryant*:

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a referendum on constitutional changes that will strengthen his government’s powers over the courts and army, boosting his prospects of re-election next year.

The package was supported by 58 percent of voters to 42 percent against, with a 78 percent turnout in yesterday’s vote, state broadcaster TRT said citing official figures from the country’s election board. ...
The referendum was widely viewed as a preview of Erdogan’s chances of winning a third term in office at general elections to be held by July. The “yes” vote will bolster a government that has presided over record economic growth even as critics accuse it of seeking to undermine Turkey’s secular system.

Generals and judges who see themselves as the last line of defense against encroaching Islamism, and have frequently clashed with the prime minister since his party came to power in 2002, will have their powers curtailed under the amendments.

The strong win “indicates the prospects of a third term look solid,” and shows that Erdogan’s “political machine” is “far superior to any of its competitors,” said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst of political risk at the Eurasia Group in London.

Speaking to supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan welcomed the “yes” vote and said he will work on a complete overhaul of Turkey’s constitution, drafted in 1982 when the country was under military rule, after next year’s elections.

...Opposition politicians campaigned against the measures, saying they undermine the separation of powers and would hand Erdogan too much power....
...The amendments ...[will allow] members of the armed forces to be tried in civilian rather than military courts for crimes against the state...

The amendments also restructure the judiciary, giving the government more control over appointments to the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges and the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court, which has frequently clashed with Erdogan and struck down measures passed by his lawmakers, will be expanded to 17 members from 11, with 14 appointed by the president and the other three by parliament.

Critics including the opposition Republic People’s Party and Nationalist Action Party say the amendments allow Erdogan to enact what they say is his hidden Islamist agenda...

*With assistance from Seda Sezer in Istanbul. Editors: Ben Holland, Louis Meixler.


From Aljazeera, 12 Sep 2010: Turkish analysts discuss their views on the referendum:

...Al Jazeera spoke to several analysts to get their thoughts on the vote.

Cengiz Aktar, Turkish columnist and journalist
..."There is no unity among the 26 articles unfortunately, and the referendum has turned into a referendum on the AKP [Erdogan's party]. But this is how things happen in this country.

"Now we are heading towards an election next year and if the vote is a 'yes' vote, the hand of the government will be strengthened for a brand new constitution in Turkey."

Semih Idiz, columnist at Turkey's Milliyet newspaper
"There are really only two articles that are controversial. Even the opposition in the past has said it will endorse the remaining articles.

"These two articles are to do with the composition of the high judiciary. The government is basically trying to introduce a system where there can be more parliamentary and effectively government control over the judiciary.

"The hardcore secular camp in Turkey are objecting to this very severely because it believes that this will open a back door to an Islamic agenda for the government in the future.

"So, the lines are pretty well drawn here and they are not really discussing the merits of the article in questions. In fact, they are discussing ideological things.

"The stakes are high for both sides. In fact, we can say for three sides - the Kurdish side as well.

"...there is, what I call, the post-modern civil war between the secularists and the 'Islamists' in this country....

Cuneyt Ulsever, columnist at Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper
"There are two amendments that directly talk about judiciary, with an accusation that the judiciary had been too independent and made another coalition in the country and done many injuries to the political system. This is the allegation of the government.

"The problem is, if the amendments are accepted as proposed by the government, 10 out of 17 members of the constitutional court will be decided directly by the government people."


"The minister of justice and his aides will be the chief of [the] council that will decide about the judges."

"I would say that, yes, the judiciary has done many wrongs in the past, but with this new amendment it is quite possible that the government will directly be the leader and the owner of the judiciary."

"The root of democracy, the separation of powers, will be completely voided."

"As is it today, we will see a more authoritarian prime minister than ever. Our prime minister is already a very authoritarian personality and now he will have all powers in his hands."