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Turkeys try to return to Ottoman era, glory endangers Israel and region

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK party during a meeting in parliament in Ankara, Turkey, March 4, 2020. Photo: Turkish Presidential Press Office / Handout via Reuters.

JNS.org – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan has big ambitions. He wants to bring his country back to what he perceives to be the glory days of the Ottoman Empire, but the leader, who has been described as a battler and has been at the peak of power since 2002, appears to be leading the country in the wrong direction. . path as it crushes secularism, supports radical Islamism, suppresses democratic reforms and adopts a forceful foreign policy approach that seeks to assert Turkish hegemony in the region.

With an eye on his base of conservative and religious party support as his popularity wanes amid an economic downturn, Erdoan recently converted two Istanbul landmarks to function as museums.Hagia Sophiaand the Church of St. Savior in the mosques of Chorainto in an attempt to flex its Islamist muscles. And now, with his focus on Greece and Libya, Erdoan appears to be looking for regional dominance. The question is how all of this bodes well for Israel.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies specializing in Turkish foreign policy, said JNS that Erdoans’ actions are influenced by the transformation of the international system from a unipolar system to a multipolar system.

The perception that the United States anticipatesreduce its military presence in the Middle East announced by US President Donald Trump this week and the power vacuum that has emerged as one of the consequences of the Arab upheavals is pushing several actors, including Turkey, to act more assertively, she said. declared.

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Lindenstrauss noted that Turkey’s bellicose behavior stems from its perception that in the current international context, acting aggressively does not necessarily entail major costs on the part of world powers and that the temptation to act in this manner is therefore bigger, she said.

With the Islamist identity of Erdoans and close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Hamas, this triangle seems dangerous for Israel. Is this a real threat?

After the fall of [former Egyptian President] Mohammed Morsi, Turkey has become the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood axis in the Middle East, she said. This is a source of concern in Israel, and there is now a greater awareness of Hamas’ military activity on Turkish soil.

Likewise, there is greater suspicion of Turkish government agencies and NGO activities in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and Israel is less open to Turkish initiatives to help the Palestinians, she said. . The fact that Turkey is seen as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood axis is an even bigger problem in the eyes of the pragmatic Sunni states with which Israel cooperates.

Lindenstrauss has suggested that one of the reasons Israel and the UAE have reached a normalization deal between them is related to Turkey’s growing concerns for a greater role in the region.

A fusion of nationalism and Islamism

Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told JNS that as an Islamist Erdoan does not have a great love for Jews and for Israel.

According to Inbar, Erdoan believes Turkey has a great destiny and should be a world power. The fact that the United States is slowly reducing its footprint in the Middle East adds to even greater freedom of action for Turkey in regional affairs.

He noted that Erdoan is not only a leader with an Islamist ideology, but an actor of realpolitik. Turkey is located in Iraq and Syria and has a military base in Qatar and Somalia. Erdoan tried to build a base in Sudan, and now he’s occupied in Libya. As part of this new Turkish nationalism, he challenges the border with Greece, essentially seeking to overturn the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, which officially ended the Ottoman Empire.

There is a fusion of nationalism and Islamism here between Turkish nationalism with its roots in Islam, the Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire, Inbar said. There is a clear alliance between Turkey and Qatar, which both support the Muslim Brotherhood.

He also noted that Turkey provides Hamas members with passports, which gives them greater freedom of movement.

Erdoan is a very successful politician, a good speaker and charismatic, he said. Tackling Israel gets him to vote and makes him popular in the Muslim world he wants to rule, so Israel is a good target for him.

With all the Erdoans making saber-rattling above Israel, it’s business as usual, however, as most of Turkey’s exports to the Arab world are shipped through the port of Haifa.

Erdoan has a pragmatic lean, Inbar said. He did not completely sever diplomatic relations with Israel.

Yet, he warned, Israel must exercise caution.



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