Turkey calls Israel 'terrorist' state, seeks to 'save Jerusalem' -analysis
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a cruel “terrorist” state as footage from far-right Turkish media shows Hagia Sophia in Istanbul of prayers demanding Jerusalem be “saved from invasion.” Extremists in Turkey are now calling to “free al-Aqsa” in Jerusalem, comparing it to how the historic church of Hagia Sophia was reconsecrated as a mosque last year by Erdogan.
On May 9, Erdogan wrote in Turkish that he “invite[s] the whole world, especially the Islamic countries, to take effective action against Israel's attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and Palestinian homes.”
Erdogan also wrote in Hebrew, claiming he strongly condemned the “heinous attacks” in Jerusalem. He said he will stand with his “Palestinian brothers.”
He also tweeted in Arabic. He linked the Israeli “attacks” to Ramadan, suggesting Israel does this every year.
Accusing Israel of being a “cruel” and “terrorist” state is part of Ankara’s desire to use the tensions in Jerusalem to boost Turkey’s image. Turkey has long sought to play a greater role in Palestinian affairs, going back more than a decade to the time before Operation Cast Lead. Turkey mobilized extremists from the group IHH to board the Mavi Marmara, for instance, to “break” the blockade of Gaza, an incident that led to a downward spiral in Turkey-Israel affairs.
Later, Turkey’s Erdogan compared Israel to the Nazis in 2019 and has threatened to “liberate” Jerusalem and has hosted Hamas in 2019 and 2020. Hamas has reputedly planned terrorist attacks from Turkey, including kidnapping incidents in 2014, as well as receiving diplomatic support from Ankara. For instance, Hamas member Salah al-Arouri lived openly in Turkey for many years.
Now Ankara has returned to form. It is using religion mixed with pro-Palestinian messages, similar to Iran’s regime, to stoke tensions. It has been harnessing this mix of religious and Islamic messaging and pro-Palestinian rhetoric for years. The Jerusalem clashes have given Turkey a chance to re-insert itself into Palestinian politics. It may also want to encourage elections in the Palestinian Authority so that it can help bring Hamas to power. Turkey has long sought to push its efforts in Jerusalem, working with local allies and endowments to increase Turkey’s role. Israel has been wary of this. Now, with tensions growing, Ankara is moving quickly to make as many announcements as possible.