August 25, 2022 | Flash Brief

Erdogan Reaffirms Support for the Palestinian Cause

August 25, 2022 | Flash Brief

Erdogan Reaffirms Support for the Palestinian Cause

Latest Developments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed support for the Palestinian cause on Tuesday as he warmly welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Ankara. Erdogan criticized “Israeli attacks and civilian casualties,” an apparent reference to the recent conflict between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Jewish state. Erdogan’s statement comes a week after Turkey and Israel formally announced the normalization of diplomatic ties.

Expert Analysis

“Although normalization of diplomatic ties is infinitely preferable to the previous status quo, it is ultimately a cold peace between the two states that will likely take a long time to thaw — if it ever does.” – Sinan Ciddi, FDD nonresident senior fellow

Erdogan Has Opposed Israel’s Counterterrorism Efforts

For most of the Jewish state’s history, Turkey and Israel have enjoyed warm ties. But Erdogan’s opinion of Israel took a sharp negative turn in 2008 when Israel invaded Gaza to stop Palestinian terrorist and rocket attacks. Erdogan felt the operation was an embarrassment, since then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had visited Ankara only days earlier without telling him of Jerusalem’s plans. At a subsequent World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Erdogan publicly rebuked the Jewish state for its military actions in Gaza.

Erdogan Previously Tried to Breach Israel’s Blockade of Gaza

In 2010, Israel and Turkey formally broke diplomatic ties when Erdogan personally greenlit a flotilla of ships to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israeli commandos intercepted and boarded the largest vessel, known as the Mavi Marmara, to ensure that the crew carried no weapons or cash for the terrorist group Hamas. However, when crew members attacked them, the Israelis were forced to defend themselves, ultimately killing nine of the assailants. Most of the flotilla’s passengers were Islamists sympathetic to Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction.

Turkey-Israel Conflict Harms Both Countries

The downgrading of ties between Turkey and Israel has been costly for both countries. Erdogan repeatedly hosted the leadership of Hamas, even providing it with office space in Turkey. Meanwhile, Ankara’s collaborative relationship with Israel’s military, which proved instrumental in modernizing Turkey’s F-16 fighter fleet and Challenger tanks, came to an abrupt stop.

Why the Change Now?

The signing of the Abraham Accords constituted a turning point in Turkey-Israel relations. While Ankara already had poor ties with most of the Arab world, the Jewish state’s normalization of ties with four Arab states increasingly isolated Turkey in the region. This reality became even more acute with Israel’s participation in the December 2020 East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which directly challenged Turkey’s spurious claims to natural gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus. Ankara’s normalization with Israel thus reflects not newfound good will, but its unrelated goal of boosting its regional influence. As a consequence, Turkey will likely continue to oppose Israel’s counterterrorism efforts.


Israel Palestinian Politics Turkey