The Israeli war on Gaza will continue to cast a shadow over many political developments, in an intense and occasionally unusual way. Perhaps the most prominent example of the aftershock of Israel's actions on the Gaza Strip can be seen with regards to what happened in Switzerland [last week]. The heated argument that flared up between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel President Shimon Peres during the World Economic Forum in Davos is a manifestation and an effect of that war, even on countries that were [previously] closer to alliance than to conflict.
The verbal clash between Erdogan and Peres became the major interest and most important news item to be covered, followed up on, and discussed on internet forums. Erdogan became a popular figure across both the Arab and Islamic world, to the point that some were describing him as the "Conqueror of Davos."
There is no doubt that Erdogan's anger at Peres's attempts to justify the [Israeli] war on Gaza and his criticism of those that applauded the Israeli President's speech considering it support of the military assault and the killing of civilians, was both moral and necessary. Such anger is required in order for forums of discussion and politics not to sink into [becoming forums] of unacceptable and irresponsible talk that is neither humane nor political. Perhaps the emotion that accompanied Peres's words and the high pitch in which he delivered them is evidence that he was uncomfortable with what happened.
What concerns us at this point is that Erdogan has focused his criticism upon World Economic Forum moderator David Ignatius, a writer for the Washington Post, who gave Erdogan only one minute to respond to Peres, and even interrupted him several times during that. Erdogan claims that Ignatius granted Peres 25 minutes [to speak], while only granting him one minute to respond. Ignatius claimed that lack of time, the system [of the forum], and the necessity of ending that particular meeting before dinner [prevented Erdogan being given more time to respond].
Some commentators attempted to defend Ignatius against these attacks, whether they came from Erdogan or from a wider audience especially in the Arab and Islamic world, whose feelings are still unsettled following the war on Gaza. Ignatius's reputation and experienced failed to protect him from the sharp criticisms he faced for attempting to silence Erdogan.
There is no doubt that moderating a forum such as this that consists of figures of the magnitude of [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan, [Israeli President] Peres, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, not to mention the presence of other economists and politicians, is neither easy nor commonplace. But in this fast-paced world of open possibilities, one must not lose their compass, even unintentionally.
Time is precious and important, as are rules and regulations, but in moments such as that which was witnessed in the forum [between Erdogan and Peres], other things are even more important.
There is no doubt that the debate [in the forum between Erdogan and Peres] had moral dimensions that rendered the concept of time [or lack thereof] as meaningless. Even if we were facing two separate ethical and moral viewpoints, it is equally true that when the moderator cut Erdogan off he promoted one of them. However Erdogan is the one who emerged victorious [from the Davos meeting] gaining thereby the [political] strength that will enable him to win the forthcoming elections in Turkey. It is also important to note that by walking out [of the meeting] Erdogan was successful in focusing attention on a cause that he believes to be just, although Peres believe otherwise.
*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Jan. 6.