Turkey’s Islamist Factory Settings

  • Normalization of relations with Israel could bolster efforts to balance Iran’s growing regional clout.
  • “In the Middle East, everyone at some point realizes that there is a bigger enemy than the big enemy.” – Israeli official.
  • But in the Middle East, reason does not always overcome holiness.

Israel-bashing and the systematic fueling of anti-Semitic behavior have become a Turkish political pastime since Turkey downgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel in 2010. There has been, though, relative tranquility and reports of a potential thaw since June 7, when Turkey’s Islamist government lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since it rose to power in 2002.

In August, a senior Hamas official, apparently hosted for some time by an all-too affectionate Turkish government, vanished into thin air. Saleh al-Arouri, a veteran Hamas official and one of the founders of its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was forced to leave Israel in 2010, after serving more than 15 years in prison. After his release, he was believed to be living in Istanbul. In August 2014, at a meeting of the International Union of Islamic Scholars in Istanbul, al-Arouri said that Hamas was behind the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, an incident that triggered a spiral of violence in Gaza and Israel that summer.

On June 24, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed ongoing talks with Israel, aimed at reaching some form of rapprochement, while suggesting that undue emphasis should not be placed on the gatherings.

In early September, Gold, a long-time advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “I have to say that many people in different capitals asked about the Rome meeting and … I heard the highest praise whether I was in a European capital or speaking to American officials about his diplomatic skills …Turkey is very lucky to have him [Sinirlioglu] as foreign minister. He is a first-class diplomat.”

Things between the two countries look relatively calm these days, but a fresh round of attacks from Turkey’s Islamist politicians during election rallies are not unlikely.

An Israeli official was right when he told this author recently: “In the Middle East, everyone at some point realizes that there is a bigger enemy than the big enemy.”

Turkey and its best regional (Sunni) ally, Qatar, may have come to understand that they are paying a price for unconditionally supporting Hamas, and sometimes abusing this support. Apparently, there are some signs of a potential change in the Turkish-Qatari solidarity with Hamas. But caution is required. No one is sure yet if those signs indicate a medium-term policy change.

Full article: Turkey’s Islamist Factory Settings (The Gatestone Institute)

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