Israeli-Turkish relations demonstrate President Erdogan’s hypocrisy

Erdogan was also the first Muslim leader to visit the tomb of the founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl in Israel.

The hypocrisy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in proclaiming himself the “defender” of the Palestinian cause, while maintaining a military, diplomatic and economic alliance with Israel, is legendary. He does it shamelessly. He plays the same charade when he projects himself as the messiah of Muslims around the world.

Erdogan inherited from the Ottoman sultans the ability to walk a diplomatic tightrope. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire has perfected the political art of appearing on both sides of conflicting powers. The sultans sided with France and England against Germany and Germany against France and England. The same policy is now being pursued by Erdogan, appearing to be on the Palestinian side, while maintaining multifaceted relations with Israel.

Likewise, Turkey is a member of NATO while purchasing advanced missiles from Russia, which violates NATO policies. Surprisingly, Erdogan is both the good friend of US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin!

Turkey remained neutral during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. At its conclusion, the then young Turkish republic became the first Muslim country to recognize the nascent state of Israel on March 28, 1949. In January 1950, Ankara sent a career diplomat, Seyfullah Esin, to Tel Aviv as Turkey’s first charge d’affaires in Israel.

In 1951, Turkey joined the Western bloc of countries which protested Cairo’s decision to deny passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal. The Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) opened a station on Turkish soil in the early 1950s. In 1954, Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, during a visit to the United States, called the States Arabs to recognize Israel.

Erdogan paid an official visit to Israel in 2005 and he hoped to play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Erdogan was also the first Muslim leader to visit the grave of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl in Israel and meet then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Erdogan trades for the Palestinian cause.

Relations deteriorated after the 2008-09 Gaza war and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid on the Turkish vessel by Israeli forces. In March 2013, Israel apologized for the raid, paving the way for normalized relations.

Recently, Arab states like the United Arab Emirates signed a peace deal with Israel, also known as the “Abrahamic Accord,” in exchange for recognizing the State of Israel and blocking further news. settlements in the West Bank. Turkey reacted surprisingly and threatened to withdraw its ambassador from Abu Dhabi.

Commenting on this, a Jordanian writer, Noura al-Moteari, asked: “Does Turkish President Erdogan have a mental illness and a split personality, or does he know for sure that his supporters of the oppressed Turkish people and the Muslim Brotherhood follow him with blind loyalty and can’t see past the tip of their nose? How is Erdogan threatening to withdraw his ambassador from Abu Dhabi due to the historic peace deal with Israel, while the Israeli embassy in Turkey is active?

Likewise, the Saudi newspaper Okaz wrote in an editorial: “The Erdogan regime does not miss an opportunity to trade on the Palestinian issue and deceive everyone. Despite Erdogan’s hypocrisy, which has been exposed to Arab and Islamic public opinion, his regime continues to play on the feelings of Muslims. The Turkish president appears to be applying double standards by ignoring the presence of his ambassador in Tel Aviv.

“Turkey-Israel trade”

Turkey and Israel also have a free trade agreement (FTA). According to 2018 figures, Turkey is Israel’s main trading partner. Turkey’s export products to Israel include textiles, iron, chemicals and petroleum distillates, steel, land, sea and air vehicles, as well as ceramic and glass products. Turkey also buys high-tech defense equipment, while it supplies Israel with military boots and uniforms. Turkish Airlines is the most frequent airline to Israel.

According to data from Turkey’s Ministry of Commerce, Turkey’s foreign trade volume with Israel has been around $ 5-6 million since 2013, reaching $ 6.6 million in 2019, with $ 4.4 million. dollars in exports and $ 1.6 million in imports. In January 2020, foreign trade with the country increased further.

Turkey considers Israel to be the sixth largest exporter. According to the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, Israeli exports to Turkey in 2020 increased 39% to $ 950 million, and imports from Turkey increased 16% to $ 1.05 billion. Independent estimates place Turkey-Israel trade volume on a much larger scale. Israel is among Turkey’s top 10 export markets.

“Recent Israel-Turkey diplomacy”

The curve of Israeli and Turkish diplomacy has followed a labyrinthine path. Relations between the two countries hit a low and then recover after efforts at reconciliation. Sometimes it seems that Turkish President Erdogan thinks Israel is enemy number 1 in the world and then suddenly his administration is seen doing a patchwork to re-establish ties between the two countries.

On May 14, 2018, after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and riots broke out, Erdogan accused Israel of committing “genocide” and behaving like a “terrorist state”. the level of charge d’affaires rather than ambassador in response to the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip.

However, according to Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, the rhetoric and extreme positioning was part of President Erdogan’s deliberate choice to distract from failures on the economic front and contain the pandemic. of Covid-19 in Turkey. True to Frantzman’s observation, Ankara informed Israel in March 2021 that it was set to appoint an ambassador to Tel Aviv once Israel pledged to make the gesture simultaneously, according to a media report.

Meanwhile, as a sign of its support for the Palestinians, Turkey is welcoming some members of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and has also let the group establish its office in Istanbul. But, this is also seen as a ploy to find greater leverage in negotiations with Israel.

Arab News reported in March 2020 that Turkey was in controversial talks with Israel over mutually beneficial maritime borders in the Mediterranean. These talks have been kept secret, but sources say they are still ongoing. If this project comes to fruition, Turkey will share a border with Israel.

Thus, the “technical” and “functional” relationship between Israel and Turkey will continue under President Erdogan, no matter what happens to the Palestinians and their territories. However, President Erdogan and his cabinet colleagues will continue to serve lip service whenever Palestinians are victimized.

(The author is the National President of the Organization of Muslim Students of India. The views expressed are personal)

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