News from the Arab Press

How Israel Helps Erdogan Win Over His Base

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

January 9, 2018

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Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, January 3

The relationship between Turkey and Israel has once again hit a major road bump following the American announcement on Jerusalem. In the aftermath of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Israel and described it as a “terrorist state,” whereas Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly rejected Erdgoan’s claim before accusing him of  “butcher[ing] his own people.” Harsh as these statements may be, the fact that the two leaders unleashed a salvo of attacks on each other isn’t new. What is new, however, are the international conditions that pushed Turkey to act in the way it did. Erdogan’s anger over Jerusalem has less to do with Israel as it does with the United States. It is President Donald Trump, after all, who disregarded the sentiments of millions of Muslims around the world. But Turkey is limited in its ability to act, especially against Washington, and therefore resorted to waging a diplomatic war targeting Tel Aviv. Concurrently, Erdogan has been working very hard to repair his country’s strained relationship with Russia and was caught off guard by the Kremlin’s tacit support for Trump’s declaration. This is not the reaction he had hoped for. Moreover, Turkey and Russia have increasingly been cooperating on matters pertaining to the Kurdish population of Syria, leaving Erdogan more indebted to Moscow. With no other means to blow off steam, Erdogan did what he knows best: namely, to attack Israel. The gain was twofold, First, he demonstrated that he will not sit by idly as Jerusalem is given to the Israelis; and, more importantly, his response appealed to his voter base, which wants to see Turkey become more religious while assuming a greater role in the Arab world. Therefore, these attacks should not scare observers. Turkey and Israel will never normalize ties so long as Erdogan is in power. – Khurshid Dali

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