Turkey is again rolling out media narratives about “reconciliation” with Israel. The latest attempt by Turkey to influence media narratives on this so-called reconciliation were articles that appeared in Turkish and Israeli media suggesting an exchange of ambassadors might be in the air. However, an Israeli Foreign Ministry representative said on Tuesday that Turkey has not requested that Israel agree to an exchange of ambassadors.
This is not the first time Turkey has done this under the ruling AK Party and its leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the spring of 2020, Turkey said it wanted reconciliation around the time that France, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and the UAE were all condemning Turkish threats in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s attempt to push for a largely mythical reconciliation was underpinned by Ankara’s attempt to block an Israel-Greece-Cyprus deal on a pipeline and to stop Israel from joining the Eastern Mediterranean gas forum.
Turkey again claimed it wanted reconciliation after US President Donald Trump lost his election last year. Turkey’s Erdogan was close to Trump and had gotten the US to allow Turkey to invade and ethnically cleanse Kurds in Syria. Turkey used the Trump administration to threaten NATO allies, harass France, encourage Islamist extremism and send mercenaries to Libya and Syria. Trump’s loss led Turkey to decide that the only way to decrease an emerging Israel-Greece-UAE-Egypt alliance was to try to isolate Israel away from its new friends. Turkey had even threatened to break relations with the UAE if Abu Dhabi normalized relations with Israel. How can a country pretend to want normalization with Israel at the same time that it tries to isolate Israel and ruin Israel’s friendships with Greece, Cyprus and the UAE?
This is why Israel must always be wary of the press reports – usually fed to media from the highest levels in Ankara – about reconciliation. Turkey’s sole goal under Erdogan over the last decade has been to isolate Israel and empower Hamas terrorists and Israel’s enemies. Turkey has done this quietly through funding of Islamic organizations and attempts to take leadership of anti-Israel voices globally. Even as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have moderated and rapidly improved relations with Israel, Turkey has become a leader – along with Iran – of anti-Israel propaganda. The hosting of Hamas has included terror plots hatched from Turkey. Turkey’s Erdogan has compared Israel to Nazi Germany on numerous occasions, a mix of genocidal antisemitism that has no place in international relations.
Erdogan must make amends for calling Israel a Nazi country if Ankara ever hopes to improve relations. Ankara must also expel Hamas members and stop the flirtation with anti-Israel extremist groups, whether those groups may be in Iran or Gaza. Turkey’s drift towards Iran is worrying for the region. It prefers to work with Iran and Russia to discuss Syria, rather than the US. This is despite Ankara’s media sometimes claiming that Turkey might be willing to work with Israel against Iran.
The real Turkish regime agenda was set out in an article in Turkey’s state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation that reflects Turkey’s government thinking. In it, the author denied that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and claimed that “Israel needs Turkey” and that Israel must “compromise.” Turkey never has to compromise. Turkey never does anything for Israel. This is the real agenda. Turkey wants Israel to beg and come to Ankara on a bended knee and this attitude has always underpinned Ankara’s recent treatment of Israel. It thinks that it can host Hamas terrorists, host plans to murder Israelis, give a red carpet to the Hamas commanders who have blood on their hands, who are welcomed with hugs by Erdogan, and also threaten Gulf countries against normalization with Israel, try to destroy Israel’s links to Greece and Cyprus and then order Israel to “compromise.”
Israel’s government has a long history of this abuse from Turkey and no evidence that Turkey does anything to mend ties. Turkey could start by stating that Israel is not like Nazi Germany. Otherwise, there is nothing to talk about.
Israel has friends in the Gulf who illustrate what real alliances are like, appointing ambassadors and teaching tolerance and interfaith respect. Turkey can learn from them.