Israel and Egypt want to keep Turkey out of Gaza - Michael Koplow

Israel and Egypt are on the same page in wanting to keep Turkey out of Gaza, Michael Koplow, Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum in Washington D.C., told an Ahval podcast on Wednesday.

Koplow said the tiny Jewish community in Istanbul also feels under pressure following a recent escalation in violence between the Israeli army and Palestinians in Gaza, which could strain an already tense relationship between Ankara and Tel Aviv.

The Jewish community in Istanbul last week released an official statement criticising Israel’s handling of the situation, the pro-government Daily Sabah reported.

Commenting on the statement, Koplow said it indicated the community’s angst in the face of the violence, as they want to be seen as Turkish Jews living in Turkey rather than foreigners.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently called Israel bloodsuckers, a classical anti-Semitic trope.

"They are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood," he said.

The Turkish President, a vocal defender of Palestinians, also launched a scathing attack on his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden for having "blood on his hands" over support for Israel.

Erdoğan has used the Palestinian issue in internal politics to consolidate his grip on power, portraying himself as the only international leader willing to stand up for Palestinians.

Despite strong rhetoric, trade between Turkey and Israel continues to increase under Erdoğan’s government. The volume of trade between the two countries today is $6.5 billion, up from $1.4 billion when Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.

Israel has sought to reduce ties with Turkey in recent years, repeatedly breaking off diplomatic relations, Kaplow said.  

“However, it is very unlikely that Turkey could get into a military confrontation with Israel over the Palestinian issue,” he added.

Even so, Erdoğan has continued to support Palestinian militant group Hamas to the ire of Israel.  “Top Hamas officials have received permanent residency from Turkey over the past ten years,” Kaplow said.

Hamas is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, and Turkey’s support for the group, as well as its strong public condemnations of Israel, have all contributed to the deterioration in bilateral relations.

But it is not just Israel that has been irked by Turkey’s growing say in the region. Koplow said Gaza had also become a site of rivalry between Turkey and Egypt. Egypt has traditionally been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians but is opposed to Hamas’ control of Gaza.

There are only two ways for Turkey to consolidate its influence in Gaza, Koplow said. Either Israel or Egypt would have to allow Turkey to help reconstruction. However, Egypt is reluctant to give way. While Israel is wary of Turkey’s support for Hamas and its growing influence in Jerusalem.

“I think the combination of Israel and Egypt is probably going to be pretty much on the same page wanting to keep Turkey out of Gaza as much as possible” Koplow said.