Sunday, May 9, 2021

Turkey calls Israel 'terrorist' state, seeks to 'save Jerusalem' -analysis


May 9, 2021. Greece.

  Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a cruel “terrorist” state on Saturday as Turkish media called to “free al-Aqsa” in Jerusalem like Erdogan reconsecrated the historic church of Hagia Sophia as a mosque last year.  

By Seth J. Frantzman  

On May 9, Erdogan wrote in Turkish that he “invite[s] the whole world, especially the Islamic countries, to take effective action against Israel's attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and Palestinian homes.”

Erdogan also wrote in Hebrew, claiming he strongly condemned the “heinous attacks” in Jerusalem. He said he will stand with his “Palestinian brothers.”

He also tweeted in Arabic. He linked the Israeli “attacks” to Ramadan, suggesting Israel does this every year

Accusing Israel of being a “cruel” and “terrorist” state is part of Ankara’s desire to use the tensions in Jerusalem to boost Turkey’s image.

Turkey has long sought to play a greater role in Palestinian affairs, going back more than a decade to the time before the IDF's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009. Turkey mobilized extremists from the group IHH to board the Mavi Marmara in 2010, for instance, to “break” the blockade of Gaza, an incident that led to a downward spiral in Turkey-Israel affairs.

Later, Turkey’s Erdogan compared Israel to the Nazis in 2019 and has threatened to “liberate” Jerusalem. It also hosted Hamas delegations in 2019 and 2020. Hamas has reportedly planned terrorist attacks from Turkey, including kidnapping incidents in 2014, as well as receiving diplomatic support from Ankara. For instance, top Hamas member Salah al-Arouri - wanted by Israel and the US - lived openly in Turkey for many years.  

The US condemned Turkey for hosting Hamas in 2020. Hamas is treated as if it is a government of a state by Turkey, receiving support from Turkey’s president at the highest levels.

This estranged relationship with Israel shifted a bit after US president Donald Trump lost the election in November. Turkey then claimed it might reconcile with Israel. That reconciliation was designed to harm Israel’s relations with Greece and Israel rejected the entreaties. 

Now Ankara has returned to form. It is using religion mixed with pro-Palestinian messages, similar to Iran’s regime, to stoke tensions.

It has been harnessing this mix of religious and Islamic messaging and pro-Palestinian rhetoric for years. The Jerusalem clashes have given Turkey a chance to re-insert itself into Palestinian politics. It may also want to encourage elections in the Palestinian Authority so that it can help bring Hamas to power.

Turkey has long sought to push its efforts in Jerusalem, working with local allies and endowments to increase Turkey’s role there. Israel has been wary of this. Now, with tensions growing, Ankara is moving quickly to make as many announcements as possible.  


Jerusalem Post