President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a very colorful – and succinct – way of expressing complex issues in the region. Recently, when talking about problems in the Eastern Mediterranean and the diplomatic note that Turkey issued to Israel and Greece pertaining to their activities on the Turkish continental shelf, Erdoğan said, “It is difficult to decipher whose hand is in whose pocket.”
As an idiom, this has several meanings. It could be interpreted in many different ways, from “We don’t know who is lining whose pocket” to “Who is stealing from whom?” In Anglo-American parlance, “Who drinks, who pays?” would be the most accurate understanding.
No doubt, taking into consideration the Israeli media fanning the flames and claiming that neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt sides with Turkey after the apparent thawing of diplomatic relations, as well as the Saudis expressing interest in purchasing Turkish-made drones, it can be summarized that no one knows who drinks or who pays.
We can only ask Israeli writers to do some research once in a while to reduce the risk of falling afoul so often – especially when their own government believes that regional nations cannot develop the natural gas and oil in the area.
The proposed 1,900-kilometer-long (1,180-mile) natural gas pipeline project extending from Israel to Greece and on to Italy will never materialize unless it passes through the Turkish continental shelf. Even if the project is realized without Turkey, the gas would be 200 times more expensive than the rival Russian gas reaching Germany.
This is why Israel's energy minister keeps saying that his country is ready to cooperate with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. The cheaper alternative route for the proposed pipeline is through Turkey. If this agreement is reached, then we all will know whose hand is in whose pocket.
Another incident that raises the question of "Who drinks? Who pays?" is U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price’s statement about the case filed against the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) calling for its closure.
Humans were built to forget but "search engine indices" don’t. When the Basque nationalist political party (Batasuna) was banned in 2003 by a court due to its links to the separatist terrorist ETA organization, neither then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell nor his spokesperson Richard Boucher had uttered a pip about U.S. concerns about democracy in Spain.
Compared to the PKK, the ETA appears to be a cultural organization; the number of people the ETA has killed is actually much lower than those killed by the PKK.
The prosecutor filed a 600-page indictment packed with claims and testimonies about the HDP’s links to the PKK. When Price says: “We call on the government of Turkey to respect freedom of expression in line with protections in the Turkish Constitution and with Turkey's international obligations,” whose pocket is he lining?
We know the U.S. doesn’t have a shred of respect for the Turkish judicial system given that they did not honor the agreement on the “Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters” when the Turkish courts provided truckloads of documents proving that Fetullah Gülen masterminded the July 15 coup-bid. (Now, the curious want to know whose hand is in Gülen’s pocket?)
Price and his government have called on the Turkish government to respect freedom of expression and drop the case against the HDP. The Turkish government, the president’s administration, ministers, boards or any political entity for that matter do not have the ability to interfere in the judicial system at the lowest level, let alone the highest court in the country.
I am personally of the opinion that secessionism could be tolerated if parties do not resort to violence to realize the cessation they seek. But the peer-elected prosecutor of the highest court of appeals believes that the HDP was an integral instrument deployed by the PKK to incite political violence, and he has 600 pages that prove just that.
We’ll see if the Constitutional Court agrees with him and to what extent. In the past, it was very easy to close political parties down for good in the Turkish legal system as well as exile individuals and sentence people to death. But the existing government’s political and legal reforms changed these practices.
Now, the prosecution is faced with the difficult task of proving a substantial link between the party (not just party activists) and terrorism. If it is found that just a few members (or even the party chairperson) were aiding and abetting terrorism, the party will not be closed.
Price should remember that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in 2009, backed the Spanish courts’ ban on not only Batasuna but also its proxies, the parties, which were used by Batasuna to organize its ranks not because they bombed places or killed people but simply because the court rejected the ETA ideologies.
Price and his government are paying for the PKK's drinks. It does not come as a surprise given that his government has been doing the same thing in Syria for a long time. He should ask the former commander of special operations, Gen. Raymond Thomas. He would know.
On the topic of hands, pockets and Syria: The civil-proxy war ensuing in Syria, if following Turkey's lead, could have ended, saving half a million peoples' lives and allowing for the return of 6 million refugees. It would only take a new constitution and fair and just elections.
Another colorful expression Erdoğan likes to employ is “kayıkçı kavgası” (boatmen’s fight) to describe the vicious contention that produces nothing, in reference to parties that act up as though they are trying to achieve something with little results. Boatmen on the Bosporus used to engage in shouting matches, using slightly off-color language, without leaving their boats. Fun to watch perhaps among boatmen, but when a president calls another president a “killer” while both leaders have been responsible for actual murders in Syria for a decade, the consequences are more serious. The world powers, mostly the U.S., need to stop trying to dismember Syria and cut off all support, primarily provided by Russia, to the dead dictatorship. In either case, the PKK and Baath terrorists are having a party at the expense of the U.S. and Russian people.