Turkey Isolated from US, Egypt Over Support for Hamas

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Turkey is becoming increasingly isolated from its allies over its stance on Israel's ongoing Operation Protective Edge, designed to curb Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza strip.

Its relationship with both the U.S. and with Egypt had already soured over the civil war in Syria, the ouster of President Morsi in a popularly backed coup in Egypt and Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule.

The cooling of relations became evident in a Senate confirmation hearing for the new American ambassador to Turkey. Senator John McCain pushed John Bass, the appointee, to admit that Erdogan's suppression of social media was a move towards authoritarianism.

Bass tried to avoid answering the question but eventually responded, "It is a drift in that direction, yes."

Erdogan's authoritarianism triggered huge protests last year in which the Turksih police were ordered to carry out a brutal crackdown. 

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan said in a televised interview on Saturday that he can no longer reach U.S. President Barack Obama on the telephone.

"In the past, I was calling him [Obama] directly. But because I can’t get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other. And I have talked to [Vice President Joe] Biden. He calls me; I call him. I expect justice in this process. I couldn’t imagine such a thing from those who are not endeavoring for justice."

Erdogan made another speech on July 22 that heavily criticized the Egyptian government and boasted of Turkey's support for the Palestinians. In the speech to his parliamentary group, he said, "Israel continues to occupy Palestine step by step, while killing Palestinians. Neither the United Nations, nor Western countries, nor Islamic nations are reacting seriously. The world is just watching children die. The world is just watching attacks on hospitals and houses of worship. But as states are taking such a stance, the people [of the world] are reacting and taking to the street."

This was a clear reference to the protests that have taken place across Europe against Israel's actions. Some turned into anti-Semitic riots. The worst scenes were in Paris where Jewish owned stores were attacked and a synagogue was firebombed and Berlin where the crowd screamed for Hamas to gas the Jews.

During the speech Erdogan wore a keffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian headscarf worn by Yasser Arafat. It is typically worn as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians.

It recently emerged that Turkey has been coordinating with Qatar to give millions of dollars to Hamas. Erdogan is giving Hamas $250 to $300 million per year. Egypt regards the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an affiliate, as a terrorist organization, and has been very slow to offer any assistance to an increasingly beleaguered Hamas.

Erdogan also took the opportunity to attack the Egyptian government, criticizing Western leaders for "not calling what took place in Egypt a coup." Last week, he slammed Egypt's attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, saying, "Sisi is not a party to this. He himself is a cruel perpetrator of a coup. He has blocked Hamas’ access to food and aid by closing the roads to Gaza."

He also accused Israel of having "exceeded Hitler in barbarism."

His entreaties in favor of Turkish involvement seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Fatah requested that Egypt mediate the ceasefire, as it has previous ceasefires, and Israel would not accept Turkey as a mediator. Saudi Arabia has also backed the Egyptian effort as has the U.S., which sent Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to try and broker a deal.

These events have left Turkey and Qatar marginalized in the Arab world. Their support of the Muslim Brotherhood has been a diplomatic disaster for both countries.  

Egypt, for its part, has slammed Turkey for aiding the terrorist group Hamas and for its continued support of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with its Gulf ally Qatar. On July 20 the Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoned Turkey's charges d'affaires for a dressing down over Erdogan's negative remarks about President Sisi. 

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.