Alwaght- While playing as a supporter of the Palestinian cause due to the tensions with the Israeli regime until last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent months stretched a reconciliation hand to the Israeli regime and every day distanced himself from the Palestinians.
Erdogan, who traveled to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly session, met and talked with the Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid. This meeting, which was held behind closed doors, was attended by some members of the American Jewish community. It was referred to as a new sign of warming relations between the two sides after a long political gap. At the same time of Erdogan-Lapid meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that the country will resume normal relations with Tel Aviv at the highest diplomatic level.
Erdogan's meeting with Lapid is the first meeting of the Turkish president with an Israeli PM since his meeting with Ehud Olmert in 2008. This important meeting, the details of which have not been leaked, shows that in addition to bilateral relations, the discussion of the Palestinian conflict was one of its main topics. In recent months, the Turkish leader has tried to strengthen Turkey's relations with the Israeli regime. Since assuming the power two decades ago, Erdogan has tried to gain prestige and international credit by capitalizing on the Palestinian cause and propagating himself a hero among Islamic nations. In the verbal clash he had with the time's Israeli President Shimon Peres in the World Economic Summit in Davos in 2009, he became a symbol of the struggle against the Israeli occupation in the Islamic world, but after more than a decade, now Erdogan has changed his path and is aspiring to meet the Israeli leaders. He said that he will soon travel to the occupied territories.
Although Erdogan has repeatedly claimed that strong relations with Tel Aviv do not reduce Turkey's support for the Palestinian people, what we are witnessing in practice is that the Turkish president has turned his back to the Palestinian liberation goal and the bitter statements made by Turkish officials against the Israeli regime were not in defense of Palestine but because of tensions in Ankara-Tel Aviv relations.
Following start of the normalization process, Ankara closed down Hamas offices in Turkey in appeasement to Tel Aviv.
In addition to establishing political and economic cooperation with the Israeli occupation, Turkey also uses the influence of Israeli lobbies to patch up things between Washington and Ankara and settle the existing disputes. Ankara's approach to Tel Aviv comes at a time when Israeli crimes have increased in the West Bank in recent months, and the Palestinians need the support of Islamic countries more than ever, but Turkey, like Persian Gulf Arab sheikdoms, has preferred the interests of Israel to the interests of the Palestinians.
At the same time of strengthening relations with the Israeli regime, Erdogan is also using the leverage of relations with the Palestinian Authority in order to play as a supporter of the Palestinian cause and thus guard against the Palestinian criticism and persuade them that rapprochement with the Israeli occupation is to their benefit. However, establishing relations with the Palestinian Authority is also done in Israeli interests to force the Palestinians make compromises to the Israelis.
Such claims were earlier made by Emirati and Bahraini officials when they embarked on normalization process with Tel Aviv. In the past two years, the two Persian Gulf Arab monarchies deepened their ties to the Israelis but closed their eyes to their crimes against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and even claimed that Al-Quds (Jerusalem) should be an Israeli capital. The Muslim public have now learned that any defense of the Palestinian cause by Erdogan is a deception.
Accepting humiliation to escape political and economic troubles
In his two decades of political leadership, Erdogan has proven that he is looking for his own and his government's individual interests in foreign policy, and this time, this scenario has shown itself in relations with the Israeli regime. With the foundation of his power shaky, Erdogan has yielded to this political humiliation with the Israelis to win support of the Israeli lobby in the West. Unwilling to hand over the power to the opposition, Erdogan resorts to any path to save the post.
Additionally, due to Ukraine crisis, Europe desperately needs alternative gas supplies. Ankara pushes to persuade Tel Aviv to send gas to Europe via its territory in order for Turkey to get the geopolitical advantage of becoming East-West energy crossing. In addition to buying cheap gas from Israel, Turkey can take from the Europeans billions of dollars in transit fares. This will make a special privilege to Erdogan as Turkey is set to hold elections next year. The gloomy economic situation of Turkey in the past years has increased popular discontentment with Erdogan's government and policies, and the improvement of people's living conditions in the upcoming months can come to his help.
Erdogan's appeasement of the US
Though Washington-Ankara ties have been frayed over the past few years, they showed signs of improvement along with Turkish-Israeli detente process. On the sidelines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan maintained that talks with the US to purchase F-16 fighter jets are going well and will conclude soon. He said that he held "positive" talks on the jets deal with his American counterpart Joe Biden. Defense ministers of both countries also discussed the deal. Though a NATO ally of Turkey, the US had suspended arms purchases to Ankara due to tensions in recent years. Israeli officials seem to have a significant role in mending their ties. Since the priority of US foreign policy in West Asia is to ensure the security of the Israeli regime and to develop the relations of the regional states with Tel Aviv, Erdogan has granted a privilege to Washington with the normalization plan and in return is trying to get a privilege from the White House by buying weapons. Erdogan is possibly to strike a deal on purchasing F-35 jets after if the F-16 deal goes ahead in the next months.
By embracing the Israelis, not only has Erdogan distanced himself from the Palestinian cause, but also he has tarnished his image among the Muslims, and from now on, his pro-Palestinian defense against the Israeli occupation would not be believed by public opinion.