In first, Turkey leader’s hostility noted as ‘challenge’ in annual intel report
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In first, Turkey leader’s hostility noted as ‘challenge’ in annual intel report

Turkish president seen as pushing increasingly aggressive stance in the region, threatening Israel’s maritime interests

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, greets Iran's President Hassan Rouhani before a meeting at the Cankaya Palace, in Ankara, Turkey, September 16, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, greets Iran's President Hassan Rouhani before a meeting at the Cankaya Palace, in Ankara, Turkey, September 16, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Despite officially maintaining diplomatic ties with the country, Israel’s military has added Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aggressive policies in the region to its list of “challenges” in an annual assessment for the coming year, The Times of Israel learned Tuesday.

This is the first time Military Intelligence has included the policies of the Turkish leader on this report.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been increasingly strained under Erdogan, who routinely speaks out against the Jewish state and allegedly allows Palestinian terror groups to operate freely in his country.

Though in its assessment, which is presented to Israeli decision-makers each year, the military does not see a direct confrontation with Turkey in the offing in 2020, the country’s increasingly bellicose actions in the region have made it one of the top dangers to watch for the coming year.

The assessment did not detail any specific threat from Turkey toward Israel, but rather indicated that policies pursued by Erdogan, whose Islamist party is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, was behind the cause for concern. Those issues were not inherent to Turkey’s outlook and would not necessarily outlive Erdogan, the assessment indicated.

In recent months, Ankara has been stepping up its expansionism, conducting military operations in next-door Syria and proposing to establish a gas pipeline to Libya, despite the fact that this would likely violate the territorial waters of Israeli ally Greece.

In an interview with Channel 13 last month, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said it was Israel’s “official position” that such a Turkish-Libyan pipeline would be illegal.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re sending battleships to confront Turkey,” he said.

In October, following a Turkish invasion of Syria as part of Ankara’s fight against Kurdish groups there, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told the UN Security Council’s monthly Middle East meeting that Erdogan “has been destabilizing the region through violence and supporting terror organizations,” adding that Turkey’s “shocking” incursion into Syria had come as no surprise.

“Erdogan has turned Turkey into a safe haven for Hamas terrorists and a financial center for funneling money to subsidize terror attacks,” he said. “Erdogan’s Turkey shows no moral or human restraint toward the Kurdish people. Erdogan has turned Turkey into a regional hub for terror.”

Danon said Erdogan was dragging his country down an “imperialist path. He threatens journalists, persecutes religious minorities and promotes anti-Semitism.”

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