29.11.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Turkey and Israel engaged in a verbal clinch…

Turkey and Israel engaged in a verbal clinch...

Anti-Israel sentiment is rising globally in light of the events in the Gaza Strip and the Israel Defense Forces’ ongoing disproportionate strikes on civilian targets, including hospitals, in the name of combating Hamas.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy, declared the end of diplomatic ties with “Bibi”, charged Tel Aviv of “war crimes”, and pledged to do the necessary research and gather proof to present to the appropriate international bodies.

So, as Erdoğan’s words should not contradict his actions, the Turkish leader announced on November 15 that thousands of lawyers are filing an appeal with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Netanyahu’s genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. According to Erdoğan’s statement, Ankara will take all necessary measures to hold Netanyahu and his entourage accountable for their actions. In particular, the Turkish president said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): “Now hundreds, thousands of lawyers are appealing to the ICC in the Hague over Netanyahu’s genocide, we will take whatever action is necessary in this connection.” And further added: “If Israel continues the killings as it does now, it will be considered a terrorist state cursed around the world.”

Meanwhile, on November 14 the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a request that the Turkish Ministry of Justice initiate criminal proceedings against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, requesting that the International Criminal Court try him for genocide in the Gaza Strip. Prior to that, former Turkish MP Metin Külünk said that a petition had been lodged with the Hague-based International Criminal Court via Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, demanding that Netanyahu be tried for “genocide” in Gaza. Külünk and two Turkish lawyers urged in the motion that the ICC Prosecutor’s Office gather evidence of Netanyahu’s crimes against the Palestinian people in order to eventually begin criminal procedures against the Israeli prime minister and other perpetrators. According to Külünck and the lawyers, Netanyahu is employing weaponry prohibited by international treaties in the Gaza Strip “under the eyes of the entire world.”

What can we conclude from Turkey’s anti-Israel comments and actions?

First, Erdoğan made other loud statements.

Second, both Erdoğan’s statements and the Turkish side’s real conduct in this issue contain a number of errors. Specifically, the president speaks of “thousands” or even “hundreds” of lawyers making a request to the ICC to convict the Israeli prime minister, but in reality, based on official sources, we are speaking of just two lawyers.

Third, Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and is therefore not a member of the International Criminal Court. As a result, Turkish law enforcement and state institutions—the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the court—are unable to bring a case directly before the International Criminal Court and must instead handle this legal process through the mediation of either other international organizations or nations that are ICC members.

Fourth, no information about the evidence of Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal guilt has been provided by the Istanbul Prosecutor General’s Office, which has only asked the Turkish Ministry of Justice to begin criminal proceedings against the Israeli prime minister and demands that the ICC punish him.

Furthermore, Turkish lawyers and a former MP have so far demanded information regarding the crimes that Netanyahu and his group committed from the ICC Prosecutor’s Office. In fact, the Israeli side does not provide its Turkish counterparts with evidence of its own prime minister’s crimes in the Gaza Strip via the channels of contacts between the two intelligence services.

Erdoğan not only accused Netanyahu of committing the crime of genocide in the Gaza Strip, but also called Israel a terrorist state. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Kalın, Head of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), has been in working contact with his Israeli counterpart, Mossad Director David Barnea. How can Turkey’s president label Israel a terrorist state if his subordinate intelligence service collaborates with that terrorist state’s intelligence agency?

Also, Turkish-Israeli relations are not limited to intelligence exchanges. Even now, it is known that 40% of Israel’s oil exports pass through Turkey on their way from Azerbaijan and Iraq. How does Erdoğan accuses Israel of being a terrorist and genocidal state but rejects the request of his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to put an economic and commercial blockade on Israel, at least until the end of the current crisis in the Gaza Strip?

Finally, on November 3, during the Summit of the Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), Erdoğan “failed” to persuade his closest allies, some of whom (notably Azerbaijan) are directly indebted to Turkey for celebrating its military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, to adopt a collective anti-Israel resolution. In this case, the OTS was established in 2021 with the decisive participation and leadership of Turkey. Despite his primary ally and “big brother” Recep Erdoğan’s loud accusing words, President Ilham Aliyev maintains strong military and economic collaboration with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu retorted that “Israel will not listen to his lectures,” accusing Erdoğan of sponsoring terrorism—clearly referring to Hamas. But the Israeli prime minister did not say whether Erdoğan backs Hamas terrorism with political remarks, military support, or humanitarian aid. And is Hamas a terrorist group if, in large part because of Netanyahu’s actions, they openly won elections and took control of the Gaza Strip with complete lack of opposition from that same Israel in particular? And what does Israel think of Turkey’s approach to the Armenians of Karabakh or the Kurds in Syria?

Thus, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen declared that Israel is acting in compliance with international law and will not relent in its opposition to the Palestinian Hamas movement, accusing the Turkish president of distorting reality.

This exchange leads one to the conclusion that, thus far, Turkey has persisted in its “declarative diplomacy,” attempting to give political weight to its accusatory statements in the Islamic world as a “impartial defender” of all Muslims and the marginalized, as a legitimate candidate on behalf of the Muslim Ummah (roughly 2 billion people, or 25% of the world’s population), to the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

In this instance, I believe the Russian response—as conveyed by Russian President Dmitry Peskov’s press secretary—is more equitable. Specifically, Russia states that “we have nothing to comment on here” because Russia is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and does not recognize the International Criminal Court.

Turkey can only accuse Israel of committing Palestinian genocide if it acknowledges the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians. In any case, the ICC may countersue Turkey with the cooperation of the same Israel and its Western friends.

Meanwhile, on November 16, the Turkish parliament will determine whether to hold a vote on Sweden’s NATO membership status in order to prevent such counter-accusations. Undoubtedly, Erdoğan and a significant portion of Turkey’s political cluster are hesitant to endorse the forceful suggestions made by the United States and the NATO alliance about Sweden’s inclusion in the alliance. Erdoğan is requesting that the US and the EU fulfill his financial and military demands in this way.

Left-wing extra-parliamentary opposition figures in Turkey, such as the Communist Party and the Motherland Party, have openly urged the country’s parliament to refuse Sweden’s NATO membership, branding the North Atlantic Alliance a terrorist group and recommending that the government pull out of the military alliance.

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey in particular, according to the Communist Party of Turkey, has suffered a significant loss by endorsing Finland’s admission with not a single “no” vote. As a result, they believed that another setback on the Swedish issue would worsen the Middle East crisis and put everything under the control of American imperialism.

Doğu Perinçek, Chairman of the Motherland Party, takes the same position as the communists. “By saying yes to NATO expansion,” Perinçek observes, “we are saying yes to the destruction of the national economy, yes to dollar dominance, unemployment, and population impoverishment.”

This doesn’t correspond to reality though. The problem is that neither the communists nor Perinçek have a single representative in Turkey’s parliament. As a result, their opinion does not establish Ankara’s true position, and the ruling coalition of AKP and MHP groups would prefer not to make a decision based on the communists’ and Perinçek’s categorical notes. If Turkey is willing and able to withdraw from NATO, why the intrigue and bargaining over Sweden’s fate in the alliance? However, where is the assurance that there isn’t a similar situation in Sweden if the Turkish parliament votes in favor of Finland with a unanimous vote? Everyone in our peculiar Turkish democracy is either “for” or “against” depending on President Erdoğan’s stance. The evening news will explain how things will be this time.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor in Political Science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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