What will Erdogan choose: closer ties with Israel or continued support for Hamas?

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The Turks have never realized how deeply Ankara’s protection of Hamas leaders, including the provision of Turkish citizenship and passports for travel, affects Israel. Turkey’s position on Hamas has always been a key concern for Israel. “Turkey rejects Israel’s request to deport Hamas terrorists,” by Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, November 13, 2022:

Özkizilkik [a Turkish analyst] He says he doesn’t think the issue will have a major effect on Turkey-Israel relations.

Instead, he believes that the change of government in Israel, which will see Netanyahu return to office, and the upcoming elections in Turkey would have a much bigger impact on relations.

No, Ankara-based analyst Omer Özkizilcik is wrong. Like so many other Turks, he does not realize that Turkey’s favoring Hamas will have a “significant effect” on relations with Israel. Netanyahu will not cut ties with Turkey, but Erdogan should not expect further improvements in ties with the Jewish state until Turkey asks Hamas members to leave, stripping them of their Turkish citizenship and making them hand over their passports just before leaving. . Everything can be done very quietly.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a strained relationship with Netanyahu, with the two leaders trading insults over the years.

In 2018, Erdogan declared that the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces was genocide.

Netanyahu later tweeted: “Erdogan is among the biggest supporters of Hamas and there is no doubt that he understands terrorism and carnage well. He suggest that he not preach morality to us.

Erdogan responded by tweeting that the Israeli prime minister heads an “apartheid state.”

The Turkish-Israeli rapprochement [and] the normalization of relations is not based on anything related to the Palestinians and the Palestinian parties, but rather on geopolitical and energy and economic realities,” Özkizilcik said. “It’s a common interest approach.”

What Özkizilcik does not realize is that if this “closeness” goes further (Turkey needs it, for economic reasons, much more than Israel), the Turks will have to renounce their support for Hamas. Israel does not need closer economic ties with Turkey as much as Turkey does. Israel’s main interest at the moment is to offer economic benefits – in trade, technology, tourism – as long as Ankara complies with Israel’s one, quite understandable, quite modest request: cutting Turkish ties with Hamas, a group that wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Is this Israeli desire so difficult for the Turks to understand?

Gabriel Mitchell, director of undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame at Tantur in Jerusalem, told The Media Line that he believes the foreign minister’s statement on Hamas was an attempt to lure Netanyahu into negotiations to continue rapprochement. .

“I see this as a way for Erdogan to say that there is a bigger prize available if Netanyahu is willing to meet in the middle, so I think essentially normalization negotiations are effectively back on,” he said.

For Netanyahu, “meeting in the middle” does not include tolerating Turkey’s protection and support of Hamas. Whatever economic benefits may arise from Israel’s closer relations with Turkey, and most of those benefits will be on the Turkish side of the ledger, Netanyahu is not one to overlook Ankara’s continuing ties to Hamas. He is not Lapid or Herzog, eager to please. He will keep relations with Turkey frozen. Is that what Erdogan wants? At some point, if Erdogan wants that trade, technology transfer and even more tourist dollars from Israel, he’s going to have to show those Hamas leaders the door.

Mitchell says that the fact that Hamas members live in Turkey is one of the biggest obstacles to restoring full relations, and believes that if Netanyahu had been prime minister, a deal on diplomatic relations would not have been reached without Ankara. take concrete action against Hamas.

“I certainly saw it as sort of a backtracking of Israel on a fundamental principle,” Mitchell said.

That “core principle” will be swiftly restored by Netanyahu when he makes it clear to Erdgoan that until Hamas is out of Turkey, no further progress in economic ties will be possible.

“Turkey understands that a Netanyahu government will not be as eager to fully restore or move on the path to normalization as the previous government,” he added.

Netanyahu will not continue to “back down” on that “central principle” of fighting terrorists, but will demand that if Erdogan wants good relations with Israel, rather than just an exchange of ambassadors, he will have to expel Hamas from Turkey immediately. .

The thaw in ties with Israel is part of a broader attempt by Erdogan to improve relations with countries in the region and the West in the hope of attracting foreign investment to his country, which has been struggling under a devalued currency and rising inflation. massive that is officially reported in more than 80%.

Restoring full diplomatic ties with Israel has been a success story amid tepid responses from many countries, particularly the US, to the Turkish President’s proposals….

Given such “lukewarm responses” from other countries, there is all the more reason for Erdogan to cultivate economic ties with Israel and not screw things up by continuing to insist on supporting Hamas leaders in Turkey itself.

With Netanyahu as prime minister, I doubt there is any chance of improving ties between Turkey and Israel, beyond what has been achieved so far: the exchange of ambassadors. Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Isaac Herzog belong to the left (Herzog) or the center-left (Lapid) or the center-right (Bennett). They have been willing to gloss over Erdogan’s support for Hamas. But Netanyahu is made of harder stuff. He has spent decades fighting terrorists, beginning with his service at Sayeret Matkal; he participated in the capture of terrorists who had taken control of a Sabena aircraft. His brother Jonathan was assassinated while rescuing hostages from Arab terrorists in Entebbe on July 4, 1976. Netanyahu has not forgiven Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara episode. He will make it clear to Erdogan, the Padishah sitting in his 1,500 Ak Saray (White Palace) room, that: “As much as I believe our two countries would benefit from closer economic ties, there can be no further improvement in relations until the Turkish government stops providing aid (citizenship, passports, refuge) to the leaders of the Hamas terror group.”

The ball will then be in Erdogan’s court. The choice is stark: the prospect of better ties with Israel that will greatly improve the Turkish economy, or endure the freezing of those ties, in order to continue supporting the Arab Hamas terrorists. What does Erdogan think he would prefer the people of Turkey?

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