November 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Turkish President Escalates Anti-Israel Rhetoric

November 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Turkish President Escalates Anti-Israel Rhetoric

Latest Developments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to ratchet up his rhetoric against Israel on November 15, calling Israel a “terrorist state” and defending Hamas terrorists as “resistance fighters.” Erdogan made the comments during a speech to the Turkish Parliament, two days before he travels to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin during his first trip to Europe since October 7. According to Reuters, Erdogan called Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza “the most treacherous attacks in human history” and blamed the West for supporting Israel.

“With the savagery of bombing the civilians it forced out of their homes while they are relocating, it is literally employing state terrorism. I am now saying, with my heart at ease, that Israel is a terror state,” said Erdogan. “We will never shy away from voicing the truth that Hamas members protecting their lands, honor, and lives in the face of occupation policies are resistance fighters, just because some people are uncomfortable with it.”

Expert Analysis

“Erdogan continues to prove to NATO that Turkey no longer belongs in the Western alliance. His venom toward Israel is part of a broader Islamist outlook that justifies supporting terrorist groups like Hamas. But his anti-Western animus runs even deeper. The alliance between Washington and Ankara will require a serious revision when this war is done.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“With each passing day, Erdogan is showing his true colors. His continuous praise of Hamas is backed up by institutional measures, providing the terrorist organization a second base outside of Gaza in Turkey, where it continues to plan further attacks. The United States and its European allies must take a fresh look at Turkey’s credentials as an ally and initiate a debate that raises the question of what it takes to be a NATO member and what can be done about present members such as Turkey that undermine the alliance’s security interests.” Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Erdogan’s Escalating Rhetoric Since October 7

Erdogan’s statements come days after he said Israel is guilty of “fascism” and claimed that Israel’s legitimacy is “being questioned.” Scholz called these statements “absurd,” adding that Israel, as a democracy, is “a country that is bound to human rights and international law and acts accordingly.”

Addressing hundreds of thousands of his supporters at a pro-Palestinian rally at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on October 28, Erdogan said that Israel was conducting a “massacre” in the Gaza Strip and threatened military action. The statements led Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to call for a reevaluation of relations between Israel and Turkey and order the return of diplomatic representatives from Ankara.

Erdogan Defaults to Antisemitism

Before October 7, Erdogan tried to backtrack on his earlier anti-Israel rhetoric and strengthen his earlier rapprochement with the Jewish state in an effort to help revive Turkey’s struggling economy. Erdogan met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March 2022. In September 2022, Israel and Turkey reestablished diplomatic ties after a 14-year hiatus.

Despite the rapprochement, Ankara has continued to harbor Hamas’s top leadership in Turkey and provide the organization with material support. Hamas’s leaders, including Khaled Mashal, Ismail Haniyeh, and Saleh al-Arouri, have openly met with Erdogan many times, including in July and October of this year. Ankara has provided Arouri and Haniyeh with residency and Turkish passports, which has allowed them to travel internationally unhindered. Arouri, Hamas’s West Bank chief, is a U.S.-designated terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head.

Targeting Jihad Yaghmour and the Hamas operation in Turkey,” by Sinan Ciddi and Jonathan Schanzer

Israel to Reevaluate Diplomatic Relationship with Turkey After Erdogan’s Threats,” FDD Flash Brief

Turkey at 100: Under the Grip of Authoritarian Nationalism,” FDD Event

Erdogan’s Damning Response to the Hamas Attacks,” by Sinan Ciddi


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