April 11, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey Initiates Trade War With Israel

April 11, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey Initiates Trade War With Israel

Latest Developments

Turkey announced on April 9 that it would ban certain exports to Israel until Jerusalem declares a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Ankara claimed that it put the ban in place after Israel rejected a request to allow Turkish military planes to participate in aid airdrops in the Gaza Strip. This move comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered its worst loss in more than 20 years in nationwide local elections on March 31. Ankara’s trade ministry said it would ban the export of 54 categories of products, including iron, marble, steel, cement, aluminum, brick, fertilizer, construction equipment, and aviation fuel.

In response, Israel said that it would compile an “extensive” list of Turkish items it would ban. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X that Ankara is unilaterally violating trade agreements. “Erdogan is once again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Türkiye for his support of the Hamas murderers in Gaza who raped, murdered and desecrated the bodies of women, girls, adults and burned children alive,” Katz said.

Expert Analysis

“Any Turkish company that engages in this politically motivated, discriminatory boycott of Israel could be in violation of state anti-BDS laws. State officials will want to watch for reports on which Turkish companies cut off sales to Israel and then consider opening investigations. That’s, of course, separate from any retaliatory actions Congress might consider against the Turkish economy.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Ankara’s decision to restrict trade with Israel has little to do with the Israeli government denying Turkish aid drops into Gaza. It is 100 percent linked to Erdogan’s loss of popularity among conservative voters in Turkey, who abandoned him in droves during the recent local elections. Opposition parties and journalists were effective in calling out Erdogan’s hypocrisy, which feigned sympathy for Palestinians and Hamas, while at the same time, AKP elites close to Erdogan continued to profit from trading with Israel.” Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Erdogan’s Israel Rhetoric

Despite working to repair Turkey’s ties with Israel over the past few years, Erdogan became one of the most outspoken critics of Israel after Hamas’s October 7 massacre. He has falsely claimed that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza and that Hamas members are freedom fighters. Despite Erdogan’s rhetoric and the suspension of diplomatic ties, trade between Turkey and Israel continued last year, though at a lower rate. Turkey exported $5.4 billion worth of goods to Israel in 2023, down from $7 billion in 2022.

Split in Erdogan’s Islamist Base

Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) trounced the AKP in last month’s election, winning nearly 37.7 percent of the vote to Erdogan’s 35.5 percent, and gained control of 35 of 81 provinces — including Turkey’s five largest cities. Erdogan’s government has mismanaged the country’s economy, causing 70 percent inflation. The right-wing Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) also broke its alliance with the AKP and fielded its own candidates. In the run-up to the election, YRP attacked Erdogan for continuing trade with Israel.

Post-Erdogan Turkey Is Finally Here,” by Steven A. Cook and Sinan Ciddi

Gaza Flotilla Plans Mid-April Sailing,” FDD Flash Brief

Turkey, Egypt Presidents Meet to Repair Ties, Call for Gaza Ceasefire,” FDD Flash Brief

10 Things to Know About Hamas and Turkey,” FDD Insight

Issues:

Israel Israel at War Turkey