In the Turkish-American partnership, the regular breakdowns are known. One of them is the military-strategic relationships with Russia such as the S-400 missile system that would harm NATO. Another one is offering a mechanism to Iran to skip the sanctions. Other issues, where no harm is inflicted to the partnership, are treated with tolerance – maybe with some fuss. Some of these are actually quite useful for the sake of the relationship.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s occupation with Hamas has caused some roar but up until now, it did not inflict any harm to the essence of the partnership. The red line for Washington is any position threatening Israel’s security. The situation of Iran falls into this category. If you think that Qatar, where 11,000 U.S. troops are deployed, is embracing Hamas and financing the services in the Gaza Strip without the consent of the U.S., then you better stop here and not continue reading this article.
When Erdoğan met with the Hamas delegation in Istanbul on August 22, the U.S. Department of State had quite a reaction. In their statement, they claimed that by meeting with the terror organization Erdoğan was increasing Turkey’s isolation. Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry rejected the U.S. statement which they said crossed the line.
In the meeting, Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh, Saleh al-Aruri, Maher Salah, head of Hamas Diaspora Office, Official in charge of Arab and Islam world Izzet al-Rhinic and Turkey representative Cihad Yağmur took place. Erdoğan had met with Haniyeh’s predecessor Khaled Mashal several times. In those days when Erdoğan was presented to the world as the Co-chair of the Greater Middle East Project and Turkey as the “model moderate” country to the Arabs, relations with Hamas were also present and they were not at all covert. These top-level contacts were yielding marvelous results in favor of the U.S.-Israel. When clashes started in Syria, Ihvan’s (Muslim Brotherhood) protectors Qatar and Turkey were able to make Mashal, who was accommodated in Damascus at that time, to turn his back to Syria. It was also a theme for some reaction that time that Erdoğan hosted Mashal.
Ankara’s reply to the meetings are now standard: “A country that supports PKK and hosts the leader of the Gülen Community, Fetullah Gülen, does not have a say in this.”
The list of terrorists or terror organizations are largely the product of political wars. The terrorist of one is the freedom fighter of the other. Times change and the terrorist of one day becomes a respected president. Remember the moment when Yasser Arafat, who was stigmatized as a “terrorist” as the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, took the floor on November 13, 1974 at the U.N. General Assembly. It was a Jew who facilitated Arafat’s legitimacy in the international arena. Austrian Prime Minister Bruno Kreisky was the person holding the hand of the Palestine leader. Kreisky was a Holocaust survivor who has escaped to Sweden. He was an architect of empathy, from Holocaust to Nakba. He was not an opportunist chewing the Palestine gum in his mouth. Of course, I am not comparing Kreisky or Arafat with today. Never.
The exaggerated foam in the U.S. reaction can be associated with certain current reasons. The hosting of Hamas creates a contrast against the normalization step between Israel and the UAE.
As the November presidential elections are nearing, President Donald Trump is desperately using the Pastor Brunson incident and their services for Israel to regain the lost votes. The chemistry of the relationship between Trump and Erdoğan tolerates this type of Turkey-bashing. These reactions are intended for crowds. The party and the diplomacy staff are trying everything they can to look nice both to Trump and also to the Democratic candidate Joe Biden, the one they recently slammed. A type of a relationship is carried on which has a very high hypocrisy capacity. The efforts behind the curtains are directed towards declaring, “I can be your man.”
The overdose in the reaction may be the reflections of the love between Israel and UAE. The UAE which has come forward as an unusual actor in the Middle East. Its normalization agreement with Israel bears strategic calculations. What it aims with this step is to strengthen its position in Washington, lift those barriers for purchasing certain weapons and to open effective channels that would trip Turkey.
We understand that the normalization has been bought through certain promises given to the Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ). It should be this dimension of the deal that has angered Erdoğan to the extent that he considered withdrawing our ambassador in UAE.
First of all, there is no doubt that the UAE will use the friendship with Israel card at every field and every instant they are clashing with Turkey. Besides this, there is another very annoying issue: The biggest bribe is the promise of the sale of F-35s to UAE, the one Turkey has been removed from the production program of. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner gave it away by saying that the deal would increase the sale opportunities of the F-35s. The Yediot Aharonot daily wrote that the sale of F-35s was a part of the normalization deal. According to the paper, for some time the Office of the Prime Ministry of Israel and Mossad were trying to persuade the Defense Ministry that considered any purchase of F-35s by Arab countries would endanger Israel’s security. However, after this disclosure Netanyahu sidestepped. Authorities stated the Congress would not approve the sale of F-35s by Israel.
We will see in time who will win this gamble, but if F-35s arrive in UAE, a very sensational situation will appear. The U.S. not only excluded Turkey but they have also decided that the eight F-35A Lightning II planes would be joining the U.S. Air Force.
MbZ’s regional ambitions overlap with Erdoğan’s in several areas. It is told that MbZ has been using Mohammed Dahlan who has been expelled from Gaza, in several secret operations from Yemen to Libya. It is told that he has been preparing Dahlan to replace Palestine leader Mahmoud Abbas. Former Israeli general Dr. Moshe Elad has written that such a plan existed. Dahlan can be counted as the last Palestine Erdoğan would shake hands with.
In short, the Israeli and the U.S. administrations do not want to break the spell caught with the emirates. While the wings are flying them, they want to fly as much as they can. From the point of Israel, the Arab public that is continuously exposed to Iranian and Turkish threats, is passing through a period that is most suitable to bury the Palestine cause. The wind is blowing from such a wrong direction that even Qatar cannot welcome the Hamas leader. Another actor that meets Hamas leaders without taking into consideration anybody else is Russia. It is of course hosting them with the agenda of peace and of uniting the Palestine groups. It does not offer them a platform like Turkey.
The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo without losing any time went on a regional tour including Israel, UAE, Sudan and Bahrain.
Pompeo is bargaining two things to remove Sudan from the black list. This country has been considered as a terror supporter since 1993 by the U.S. Some 330 million dollars of compensation for the Americans who were victims of Al Qaeda attacks, and recognizing Israel are the bargain points. This stance is turning Sudanese mad, who have recently got rid of Omar al-Bashir.
Next Monday, Israeli and U.S. officials are going to Abu Dhabi with fanfare. There is a huge campaign in the media, which makes one think this has been a huge longing. An atmosphere has been caught and they would not let the air disperse without getting some results. The Turkey face of that campaign contains some harshness. They see that hostility toward Turkey and Iran does break the ice in favor of Israel in the Arab world. They are determined to get some results.
Nevertheless, this situation does not at all affect the long-haul honeymoon in Israeli-Turkish relations. The trade volume which was 1.3 billion dollars with Israel in 2002 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power has now gone up to 6.6 billion dollars. Erdoğan is now threading the road the Arab regimes did during the 1960s and 1970s. His superior services to the Israeli and U.S. interests provide an immunity to the special agenda “print out” centered on Palestine. Mashal is gone and Haniyeh has replaced him; reactions are coming and going, well, but what has changed? The print out of the day says, “No need to panic.” Is there?