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

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.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021. (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021.
(photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called Israel a cruel “terrorist” state, as Turkish media called to “free al-Aqsa” in Jerusalem, just like he reconsecrated the historic Church of Hagia Sophia as a mosque last year.
Writing in Turkish, Erdogan said 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.”
Writing in Hebrew, Erdogan said he strongly condemned the “heinous attacks” in Jerusalem and that he would stand with his “Palestinian brothers.”

Erdogan also tweeted in Arabic and linked the Israeli “attacks” to Ramadan, suggesting that 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.
Ankara has long sought to play a greater role in Palestinian affairs, going back more than a decade to 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 Turkish-Israeli relations.
In 2019, Erdogan compared Israel to the Nazis, and he has threatened to “liberate” Jerusalem. Turkey also hosted Hamas delegations in 2019 and 2020.
Hamas has reportedly planned terrorist attacks from Turkey, including kidnappings in 2014, as well as receiving diplomatic support from Ankara. For instance, top Hamas member Salah al-Arouri, who is wanted by Israel and the US, lived openly in Turkey for many years.
The US condemned Ankara for hosting Hamas in 2020. The terrorist group is treated as if it is the government of a state by Turkey, receiving support from its president and 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 Jerusalem rejected the entreaties.
Ankara has now 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 reinsert 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 its role. Israel has been wary of this.
With tensions growing, Ankara is moving quickly to make as many announcements as possible.