08.04.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Turkey and Israel Continue To Exchange Insults

Turkey and Israel Continue To Exchange Insults

Much remains uncertain about the prolonged Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip, not least how long hostilities will continue and what political mechanisms could help bring about a settlement. Against this backdrop, Turkey, or, rather its President Recep Erdoğan continues to accuse Israel of committing war crimes and other atrocities against the Palestinians, to compare Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hitler, and to threaten him with destruction. Tel Aviv, in turn, has responded “symmetrically” and does not hesitate to return Ankara’s insults.

Thus, on March 22, the Israeli Foreign Minister summoned Umut Deniz, the Turkish Charge d’Affaires in Israel, to protest against the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic statements of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, and his insults to Benjamin Netanyahu (in particular, the Turkish leader’s once again comparing the Israeli leader to Hitler and promising to “send him to Allah”).

According to Israel’s Channel 12 television, Erdoğan said at a party rally: “We will send Netanyahu to Allah to take care of him, to make him miserable.” In late December last year, Erdoğan, addressing Israel, said “We have seen the Nazi camps of Israel… How are you any different from Hitler? It makes you look like Hitler.This is worse than Hitler… We will send Netanyahu to Allah.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz sent an insulting response to Erdoğan via a Turkish diplomat: “You who support those who burn children, murderers and rapists… are the last ones who can talk about God. There is no God who will listen to those who support the atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by your barbaric friends in Hamas. Shut up and be ashamed.”

Turkish-Israeli relations have reached a new low, with both sides abandoning all pretence at diplomatic protocol, and now threaten to escalate beyond mere tensions or disagreements to a state of outright hostility. However, oil from Azerbaijan and Iraq is still flowing through Turkey to Israel, and while the volume of Turkish-Israeli foreign trade has fallen, it has not completely stopped.

Turkey is trying to present its tough and intransigent stance towards Israel not as a reflection of its attitude towards the Jewish state or even a condemnation of Zionism, but merely as a criticism of the professionalism and character of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turkey claims that all the crimes committed against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are the work of Bibi, who should be convicted of committing genocide and sent to the “ash heap of history”, and that after the government changes, relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv will improve.

However, this view does not really explain the current standoff between Turkey and -Israel. Today’s conflict between Israel and Palestine, of course, did not appear out of nowhere and has a long history. However, one new feature of the current conflict is the emergence of potential new international transport corridors (ITC) from Asia to Europe through the countries of the Middle East.

In particular, we are seeing the emergence of alternatives to China’s proposed One Belt, One Road Initiative – a multimodal transit route with one branch, the Middle Corridor, running along the route China – Central Asia – Caspian Sea – Azerbaijan – Georgia and/or Armenia – Turkey – EU. These alternatives include the Indian ITC (India – Persian Gulf – UAE – Saudi Arabia – Israel – Mediterranean Sea – Europe).

Turkey, well aware of its geographical advantages and its increasing importance as a transit route for the transportation of goods and energy resources from Asia to Europe, is also trying to gain access to the Indian ITC by linking the Israeli port in the Gaza Strip to the Turkish port of Mersin and so on to Europe. Ankara is well aware that the implementation of the US-sponsored Indian project- a route from the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, passing through and Israel and bypassing Turkey, not only excludes China but also reduces Turkey’s competitive opportunities while promoting the growth of Arab-Israeli relations and strengthening of US influence in the Middle East.

That is why Recep Erdoğan has announced a “new” diplomatic initiative to resolve the Palestinian issue, which is simply the old proposal to recognize an independent Palestine within its1967 borders and with its capital in East Jerusalem, in line with UN decisions. Ankara has added just one element to its proposal – that Turkey be given an international mandate as the security guarantor of the new Palestine and gain access to the very Gaza Strip through which one of the proposed Indian transit routes is supposed to pass.

Israel, on the other hand, sees no diplomatic role for the Turkish proposal to resolve the Palestinian issue in the Gaza Strip, despite pressure form the US and the UK. Far from it – the IDF’s brutal military campaign in this coastal Palestinian enclave of more than 2 million people is partly aimed at ethnic cleansing and reinstating its occupation of the Gaza Strip.

That is why for more than two months now Tel Aviv has been insisting on a military operation in the southern part of the enclave (Rafah), where a significant number of Palestinian refugees and Hamas militants (more than 1.5 million) have congregated. Such an operation could lead to many civilian casualties and the deportation of others across the border into Egypt, without the right to return. However, Benjamin Netanyahu continues to blackmail his own allies (particularly the US), insisting on achieving Israel’s goals through its ground operation in Rafah and threatening the total destruction of Hamas.

During the next visit by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to the region (the sixth during the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict) Tel Aviv issued a warning about its plans to conduct a military operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, which could lead to the further isolation of Israel and highlight the need to find diplomatic solutions. However, Benjamin Netanyahu believes that Israel has no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah, and unless the US supports its decision, Israel will do this alone.

As he put it “We have no way to defeat Hamas without going into Rafah and eliminating the rest of the battalions there. And I told him (Anthony Blinken) that I hope we do this with US support, but if we have to – we’ll do it alone.”

Naturally, Recep Erdoğan is unable to accept this stance of Netanyahu’s. Hence the public bickering and the attempts by both countries to show that they are in the right. But is Tel Aviv’s intransigence only a consequence of Netanyahu’s own personality “faults”, or is it a politically calibrated position shared by the political elites of the Jewish state and the international Jewish community?

It is hard to take the Turkish leader’s antagonism towards Israel seriously, as he ignores the substantial military/ technical and economic cooperation between Israel and Turkey’s ally and sworn brother, Azerbaijan.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris has warned Israel of the possible consequences of a military operation in Rafah, an area where 1.5 million Palestinians could find themselves in a catastrophic situation with nowhere to go and no one (including Turkey) willing to take them in.

However, while the US may publicly insist that such an Israeli operation would be a “huge mistake” and disavow it, this does not mean that Washington will withdrawal its military support for Tel Aviv. Israel, enjoying the support of the West and the international Jewish community, is unlikely to abandon its military objectives, which it sees as necessary to ensure the strategic security of the Jewish state. And it is just not a question of obtaining the release of the Israeli hostages, but protecting national security.

Consequently, simply replacing Prime Minister Netanyahu with a new face is rather unlikely to cause Tel Aviv to change its course at the present stage. That is why, despite periodic reports of public protests and political opposition protests, Netanyahu remains at the helm of power in Israel and continues to represent the radical stance of the Jewish elites.

Thus, the Middle East is still a highly sensitive area that continues to be a source of tension in the international community. Meanwhile, backstage, the shadowy forces of the world carry out new terrorist atrocities in other parts of the planet (most recently, the tragic attack on Crocus City Hall near Moscow on March 22) in an attempt to distract attention from the Gaza Strip.


Alexander SVARANTS – Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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