Speaking at a campaign event in front of Likud Anglos, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that the secret to good leadership is to learn how to say “no” and to stand up for the rights of one’s nation, by appealing to public opinion. While Netanyahu was referencing his stance against former US President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal, he should also apply this same logic in order to encourage his friend US President Donald Trump to take a tougher stance against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sultan Erdogan poses a major regional threat to both the United States and Israel. According to a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which Erdogan heads, is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a world organization from where Hamas originated. Though Hamas has announced that it is no longer connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, connections between both movements still exist.”
Under Sultan Erdogan’s leadership, Dr. Seth Frantzman, the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, claims that the Turkish pro-government media has become more anti-Israel than Iran’s. In fact, Turkey’s Daily Sabbah referred to Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ as a so-called peace plan, while they condemned Netanyahu’s building plans in “occupied lands” in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Anadolulu News Agency referred to the terrorist who tried to stab an Israeli policeman in Jerusalem as a “martyr.”
Sadly, the threat that Sultan Erdogan poses to the State of Israel extends far beyond rhetoric. According to a recent report in the Telegraph, Erdogan’s Turkey has permitted Hamas terrorists to plan terror attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria from Turkish soil. These attacks included an assassination attempt targeting Jerusalem’s mayor. Even though Israel told Turkey that Hamas is using their territory in order to harm the Jewish state, Sultan Erdogan did nothing about it and even proclaimed, “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine.”
In fact, the Anadolulu News Agency has reported that Erdogan’s Turkey has been providing the Palestinian Authority with Ottoman Archival Documents in the hopes that they will be able to utilize them in their lawfare war against the Jewish state. According to the Jewish Press, the Turkish Aid Agency TIKA has been working intensely in order to buy up Christian properties in the Old City and is seeking to expand its influence across East Jerusalem. A Palestinian analyst noted that TIKA is gaining an increased foothold in East Jerusalem via establishing schools and educational institutions, which are not connected to Israel or the PA.
However, the threat that Sultan Erdogan poses to the free world extends far beyond the Jewish state. As we speak, Sultan Erdogan is threatening other countries in the region due to his disapproval of being excluded from the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline Project. He even went as far as sending Turkish forces to Libya in order to prop up the Government of National Accord, merely in order to have the ability to expand Turkey’s access to the Mediterranean in order to counter-balance the gas deal between Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt. Even though Turkey is still technically a member of NATO and US President Donald Trump has described Mr. Erdogan in a favorable light, calling him “a strong man” and a “hell of a leader,” the reality on the ground paints a different picture.
Under Sultan Erdogan, Turkey invaded Northern Syria and ethnically cleansed the Kurds, who are strong allies of both the US and Israel, from huge swaths of their ancestral homeland. The results of this invasion have been devastating for the entire Western world. An autonomous region which was developing a democratic pro-Western government is in the process of getting destroyed. According to a report in The Nation, a Kurdish man related: “We were living happily. The political system worked well. Then, the Turkish president sent planes to bomb us and all the Kurds left.”
The consequences of this Rojava invasion do not only adversely affect the humanitarian situation in Syria. It also works in order to strengthen radical Islamists, as the Free Syrian Army rebels backed by Turkish troops who came in order to fill the power vacuum left by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been described as “ISIS on demand” by Syrian dissident Sherkoh Abbas. He claims that many of them are former ISIS terrorists that merely changed uniforms.
Turkey’s presence in Northern Syria has also strengthened the Iranian axis, as the SDF areas that were not overrun were forced to enter into an agreement with the Bashar Al Assad regime in order to spare itself from the Turkish onslaught. Following the killing of Turkish soldiers in Syria earlier this month and the recent assault upon Idlib, it now appears like there is potential for a greater alliance between the Syrian Kurds and the Bashar Al Assad regime, especially given the fact that the US declared that they would side with Turkey during its attack upon Idlib. The destruction of whatever remains of a buffer zone blocking the establishment of a Shia Crescent from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea poses a strategic threat to Israel, America and the entire free world.
Although it is true that the Incerlik/American Air Base is presently located in Turkey and that Israel had close to $5 billion worth of trade with Turkey in 2019, this does not mean that Turkey is a reliable ally. Even though there are now reports that Turkey may be seeking rapprochement with Israel in the hopes of undoing the Greek-Cypriot-Egyptian-Israeli gas deal, this does not mean that it is prudent for Israel to take the bait. As Turkish journalist Burak Bedkil indicated, such rapprochement would only last until the next Turkish elections, when the relationship with Israel would once again be sacrificed in order to stir up the Turkish masses to vote for the AKP.
Israel cannot have any sort of gas deal with such an unreliable partner, even though it is cheaper to do the deal via Turkey rather than Greece/Cyprus. Although certain areas of the island of Cyprus are administered by an autonomous Turkish Cypriot administration that is secular, not Islamist, the fact that this government has not obtained international recognition and maintains its sovereignty under the tutelage of the Turkish military implies that they must rely upon Turkey for everything. As a result, until the Cyprus conflict is resolved, the Christian Greek Cypriot government is challenged to reach a gas deal directly with Israel without the involvement of Sultan Erdogan, who systematically refers to Netanyahu as “Hitler,” and this thus forces Israel to deal exclusively with the Greek Cypriots/Greeks.
Although many analysts claim that Sultan Erdogan has Neo-Ottoman ambitions, very few in the West including US President Donald Trump and sometimes even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands what this means. However, if they fully grasped the gravity of what this meant, they would take more actions to support the Kurds in Syria and would not be leaving them at the mercy of Turkey. Sultan Erdogan is seeking to resurrect the Ottoman Empire as it existed when it was in decline in the early twentieth century. At that time, the Ottoman Empire was repressing the Jews of Israel and massacring Armenians/Greeks. It was a dark era of history. Sultan Erdogan does not seek to resurrect the Ottoman Empire as it existed in the sixteenth century, when the Ottoman Turkish Empire was attempting to resurrect the Golden Age of Islam in Spain, as it was also assisting Jews fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition.
For this reason, it is bad foreign policy for the US and Israel to leave the Kurds at the mercy of Sultan Erdogan. Furthermore, we should not let Sultan Erdogan get away with creating facts on the ground in Libya and allowing Hamas to operate freely on Turkish soil. We should fight against this reality in the international court of public opinion. We should also legally bar Sultan Erdogan from continuing to buy up huge swaths of land in Jerusalem and indoctrinating young Arab children in the Holy City. On top of that, Israel should also invest in displaying to the world that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered the creation of a Jewish Province in Tiberius. Furthermore, we should invest in researching the Ottoman Turkish Archives ourselves in order to highlight how Turkey, not the Palestinians, controlled the land of Israel and then Turkey subsequently renounced its claims to the Land of Israel in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1922.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu must convince President Trump that he must wake up and smell the coffee. Sultan Erdogan is no ally of the United States of America. It is futile for him to back up Turkey in its onslaught upon Idlib. Doing so pushes the Kurds further into the Iranian axis and thus goes against his entire “maximum pressure” on Iran policy. Instead, America must make a 100 percent U-Turn when it comes to Syria and to start truly supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces again before it becomes too late to undo the damage. And if Trump still does not get it via a friendly overture, then Netanyahu must appeal to American public opinion regarding the dangers that Turkey poses to Israel. Unfortunately, the robust trade between Turkey and Israel, as well as Turkey and the US, hampers the freedom of action for both Israel and the US.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other developments in the greater Islamic world.
Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.