I do not think that Egypt has replaced the “aspired” role of Turkey as regional leader, as is now thought given Egypt emerging as a successful broker for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, because Turkey never stood a chance of being a regional leader.
In fact, no non-Arab state could play such a role. Besides, Egypt should always have been thought of playing a major role concerning the Palestinian issue even if Turkey’s ambition to step into a regional role has not been challenged. Thinking that Turkey could play a major role in the Gaza conflict is no different than expecting Egypt to play a major role in the Cyprus problem as columnist Kerim Balcı of daily Zaman suggested.
From the beginning, Turkey had a limited (although important) scope for political action in the region. Turkey has been credited with providing balance to the regional influence of another non-Arab actor, namely Iran. Indeed, Turkey played its role by challenging Israel and managed to channel the sympathy of the so-called “Arab street” to Turkey. Nevertheless, not only did Turkey overdo it and loose credit as a mediator in regional conflicts, it also caused a lot of things to change dramatically after the Arab Spring.
The most important outcome of the Arab Spring has been the return of Egypt as a regional actor despite of all its problems and weaknesses. The rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood created a lot of domestic concerns in Egypt, but the party has been an international asset for the Palestinian conflict. Only the Muslim Brotherhood could have a real influence on Hamas and it has worked so far. So much so that it triggered some conspiracy theories claiming that everything was a perfect design to play into the hands of Israelis.
Nonetheless, nothing is either designed or perfect. The ceasefire is delicate and the peaceful solution is still very far. Turkey is so self centered that we more focus on the declining role of Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rather than considering the prospects of regional crises and their possible impact on Turkey as well as on the whole region. Finally, the failed dreams of regional leadership were mostly about the failed vision of regional and global politics. A similar failure of domestic political vision and the combination of failed visions may lead to a worse end.
(The writer is a columnist at Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was published on Nov. 26, 2012)