Turkey bashes Gulf outreach to Israel while feigning less aggressive face

Ankara has managed to alienate most of Europe through its threats against France, Greece and other states.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a protest against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US embassy move to Jerusalem, in Istanbul, Turkey May 18, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a protest against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US embassy move to Jerusalem, in Istanbul, Turkey May 18, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)
Ankara continues to claim to foreign media and friends that it seeks reconciliation with the US, European Union and Israel, even as its state-controlled media suggest the opposite.
For instance, Turkey secured a piece on Voice of America about its “reconciliation” with Israel, while state-run Turkish Radio and Television bashed people from the UAE and Bahrain who visited Israel.
Turkey, which has diplomatic relations with Israel, has been attempting to isolate it under its far-right Hamas-backing ruling party, the AKP. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his team have made it clear their agenda is to “liberate al-Aqsa” and have even described Jerusalem as “ours,” asserting that the city belongs to Ankara, not Israel. Turkey recalled envoys after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
Yet Ankara has managed to alienate most of Europe through threats against France, Greece and other states. It has angered the US by hosting Hamas and buying Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft system.
Ankara also appears to be working closely with Russia and Iran on Syrian issues. Recently, Turkish-backed extremists began to shell the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Ain Issa. Turkey has also hinted it is planning an operation in Iraq against Kurds.
In the Mediterranean region Turkey’s parliament extended the role of Turkish troops in Libya, and Ankara continues to harass Greece by asserting claims to natural gas fields that conflict with Athens.
A year of invasions by Ankara, first against Kurds in Syria and later against Armenians, has left many in the region concerned about Ankara’s next move.
Turkey bet big on a Trump victory, slamming the then-Democratic candidate for the presidency, Joe Biden. Now it has pivoted. Part of the pivot was pushing a narrative about “reconciliation” with Israel, for which there is no evidence.
Turkey appears to claim that it will continue to host Hamas terrorists and that Israel should hook up with a Turkish pipeline for energy needs, which would ruin Israel’s relationship with its Greek and Cypriot partners in the East Med pipeline. Ankara’s message is that Turkey would get everything and Israel would be isolated.
Now Ankara’s narrative has also included claims that it wants to work with the EU and US in 2021. This is because of increasing calls for sanctions on Turkey.
It is impossible to ignore the reality. Turkey continues to illegally occupy Afrin in Syria and has illegally sent weapons to Libya despite an arms embargo. It appears to be inflaming tensions from Somalia to Kashmir and is seeking to undermine stability in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. Turkey continues its eastern Mediterranean operations.
Overall Ankara tried to sell itself to the Trump administration as a bulwark against Iran and Russia, even as it bought Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft system and let Iranian intelligence kidnap dissidents in Turkey.
For Israel, Ankara has one narrative to the Western media and another for home consumption. At home, it calls Bahrain and the UAE “sellouts” for having tolerant and friendly relations with Israel.
While Hanukkah was celebrated in Dubai and by UAE diplomats, Ankara’s increasingly far-right Islamist worldview has no place for Hanukkah or for Israel.
The goal is solely to make Turkey appear less destabilizing as the new US administration takes office.
Ankara now feels isolated as it has worked alongside Iran to be Israel’s chief antagonist, while one Arab country after another normalizes relations with the Jewish state.