Israel is considering restricting the activities of Turkey’s international aid agency in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories in an effort to counter President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reported efforts to extend his influence in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported Saturday.
The National Security Council has drafted possible measures to be taken against the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) that operates in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
According to the report, Israeli intelligence officials believe that TIKA has hosted members of the Islamic Movement at their offices, and that several of its employees transferred funds and information to the Hamas terrorist group.
Among the measures under consideration was imposing a general restriction on all TIKA actives or requiring the agency to obtain individual permits for each project.
Hadashot said Israel’s suspicions of TIKA were intensified by the recent uptick in Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric.
Last month, the Haaretz daily reported that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority were urging Israel to act against Erdogan’s efforts in East Jerusalem.
The report said Turkish Islamic associations in recent years have been sponsoring an increasing number of programs and trips for thousands of local Palestinians, and had a strong influence in the protests around the Temple Mount.
According to the Turkey’s Daily Sabah, TIKA has carried out 400 aid projects that include restoration work on the Dome of the Rock, and a new dorm room for female student’s at Ramallah’s Al-Quds University.
One Israeli official told Haaretz in June that Turkey was attempting to purchase property through government charities, and that the Palestinian Authority was weary of “having another landlord in East Jerusalem.”
Diplomats told the paper that Jordan began expressing concern to Jerusalem over a year ago and accused it of “being asleep at the wheel,” since singing the reconciliation agreement with Turkey in 2016.
Riyadh meanwhile is said to be worried that Erdogan will attempt to use his influence in Jerusalem to claim himself the custodian of the Muslim sites in the city, cementing his increasing authority over the Arab-Muslim world.
Relations between Jerusalem and Ankara imploded in 2010, following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.
In May, relations between Israel and Turkey sank to a fresh low point after expelling each other’s envoys amid an acerbic war of words following deadly clashes on the Gaza Strip border.
Erdogan took to social media to accuse Israel of being “a terror state” that was committing “genocide” against Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back shortly after, claiming that as a prime supporter of Hamas, the Turkish leader was himself involved in “terrorism and slaughter.”
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged Muslim countries to review their ties with Israel, while Erdogan called an “extraordinary summit” of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the issue.