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Turkey and Israel: Erdogan Should Learn From His ‘Foes’

On April 16, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Turkey and Israel have reached agreement on 90 percent of their issues, aiming toward reconciliation between the two countries.

At the same time, the Turkish government was busy declaring its support for “an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital” and complaining about the “Israeli occupation.”

Just two days earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, participated in the 13th Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) “The OIC was founded in 1969 in the wake of the assault on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. It has been almost 50 years but neither Jerusalem has been saved nor the pressures on the Palestinians have been alleviated,” he said.

“The atrocities our Palestinian brothers suffer from under Israeli occupation every day are a bleeding wound in the heart of the Islamic world. Al-Haram ash-Sharif [“the Noble Sanctuary” or the Temple Mount] is an Islamic sanctuary,” he continued.

Addressing the closing session of the conference the following day, Erdogan announced, “The Resolution on Palestine we adopted is once again the strongest proof and expression of the Islamic world’s support to the honorable resistance of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. We have never left our Palestinian brothers and sisters alone and inshallah [if Allah wills], we never will.”

The very next day, Erdogan held a tete-a-tete with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders issued a joint declaration in which they also announced their common ambitions about what they called “the Palestinian cause,” calling on “the international community to raise its support for the Palestinian cause including the establishment of the independent and sovereign Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Erdogan’s statements about Israel and Jews have been extremely fluctuant – but mostly deprecating and unfavorable.

(The exception was in January, when Erdogan “suddenly” declared that Turkey had to admit that it needs Israel.)

But how will “normalization” be possible when Turkey keeps making “alternative plans” about “a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital” and still refers to the “Israeli occupation” as “a bleeding wound in the heart of the Islamic world”?

Turkey’s authorities should take Averof Neophytou, head of the center-right ruling party of Cyprus, as an example in their approach to Israel.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Neophytou publicly admitted that his country’s former “perception of Israel was wrong.”

“Cyprus no longer sees Israel as an aggressive country imposing its will by force on the Palestinians, but rather as a small nation fighting for survival in the face of much greater odds,” Neophytou said.

“For decades Israel was blamed for creating the instability in the region, but can anyone credibly blame Israel for the instability in Syria, the threat of Islamic State, the Arab Spring that turned into an Arab winter, or the chaos in Libya and Iraq?” he asked.

But since Erdogan has said, “There is no country called Cyprus,” why should Turkey listen to the message of a leader of a country which doesn’t even exist?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also taken a positive step towards helping reduce the bigotry against Israel in Muslim societies.

The peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979 will be taught for the first time in Egyptian schools. According to reports, it will be “described in a matter-of-fact way, without bias or any attempt to present Israel in a negative light.”

After 37 years, such a move was long overdue. The Turkish government should follow suit.

But, again, Erdogan, doesn’t recognize el-Sisi as the president of Egypt. “To me,” he says, “the president is still Morsi, who is in jail.”

Perhaps Turkish authorities could pay attention to Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey’s neighbor to the south.

In 2007, Barzani said he opposed Iran and Hezbollah for their ideology that calls for Israel’s destruction, declaring, “I am against driving Israel into the sea … This policy is wrong, illogical and unreasonable. Why annihilate a people?

“If an Israeli embassy was opened in Baghdad, we would no doubt open an Israeli consulate in Erbil. I do not consider relations with Israel a crime or something to be hidden.”

All members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including Turkey, need to make peace with Israel in order to help reduce Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred in their countries. They need to educate their populations about the significance of non-violence and to genuinely recognize the state of Israel.

But apparently, most of the authorities in Muslim states are themselves in need of education about these things.

 

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara. She is presently in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/uzayb

 

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