Erdogan says Jerusalem tensions won’t affect ties with Israel

Turkish leader says ‘reasonable, consistent and balanced relationship’ with the Jewish state is the only way to effectively defend the Palestinian cause

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outside the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outside the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that Ankara’s rapprochement with Jerusalem will continue despite tensions over the Temple Mount.

Erdogan said that Turkey will continue to loudly protest Israeli actions at the holy site, revered by Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif to Muslims and home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but that it will not have direct bearing on the countries’ diplomatic ties.

“It is clear that the way to effectively defend the Palestinian cause is to have a reasonable, consistent and balanced relationship with Israel,” he told lawmakers in parliament, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

The speech marked a sea change from previous years, in which Turkey downgraded ties with Israel to protest actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

On Tuesday, Erdogan spoke to President Isaac Herzog about the violence, and afterward released a statement that expressed concern but did not blame Israel’s leadership and was free from the kind of inflammatory language that colored the Israel-Turkey relationship in the past, before the sides began to test out thawing their ties.

Once robust regional allies, Israel and Turkey have seen their ties fray during Erdogan’s tenure, as the Turkish president has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Israel has been upset by Erdogan’s warm relations with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The countries reciprocally withdrew their ambassadors in 2010, after Israeli forces boarded a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, came under attack, and killed 10 Turkish citizens in the ensuing melee.

Relations slowly improved, but broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once more recalled its envoy from Israel, prompting Israel to reciprocate.

In the latest sign of attempts to restore ties, Herzog visited Turkey last month for a landmark 24-hour visit.

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