Jerusalem another hurdle in U.S.-Turkish relations - analysis



The planned move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in accordance with President Donald Trump’s December declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel led to mass demonstration and death of over 60 Palestinians while heightening tensions between Turkey and the United States, says Bulent Aliriza, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Turkey Project in an article he penned for CSIS.

Erdogan has been galvanizing and directing the response from the Islamic world and the international community not only against Israel but also the United States, Aliriza notes.

The Turkish president on Friday gathered the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for an extraordinary summit on Palestine and did not mince his words regarding the United States and Israel at the gathering.

Erdogan had earlier warned that “by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the U.S. has taken the risk of losing its allies.” and that the ‘’U.S. violated all related UN resolutions and…impaired its credibility before the international community and lost its role as a broker in the settlement of this dispute.”

On Monday, the day of the embassy move, Palestinians took the streets in protest. While 60 Palestinians were killed at the Gaza border, thousands were injured in what has been described as the bloodiest day in the region in years. 

‘’There are two people responsible [for the Palestinian deaths] Mr.Trump and Netanyahu.” Erdogan said, “I condemn this human tragedy, this genocide and those who remain silent to it.” Pointedly referring to U.S.-Turkey tensions over northern Syria Erdogan compared U.S. support for Israel to “its cooperation with the PYD/YPG.”

Aliriza notes that Turkey was quick to recall its ambassadors from the United States as well as Israel for consultation,  also summoning to the foreign ministry Israel’s ambassador, who had arrived in Ankara in 2016 as part of the U.S.-sponsored rapprochement after the long diplomatic break caused by the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in 2010, to inform him that it “would be appropriate for him to go back to his country for some time.”

‘’The Israeli envoy was then subjected to an extremely unusual body search at Istanbul Airport before boarding his plane back to Tel Aviv,’’ Aliriza notes.

Turkey then declared three days of official mourning on May 14 while Erdoğan called for a massive rally against Israel in İstanbul on Friday.

Erdogan's speech at the OIC meeting took aim at the United States, Aliriza notes, by saying “Despite all warnings the U.S. surrendered to circles who feed off tension and confrontation. Instead of taking the will of the OIC and the UN into consideration, it preferred to follow Netanyahu and some radical evangelists…It has rewarded Israel which has gone beyond apartheid regimes with its occupation policies and punished the Palestinian people who want peace. With its Jerusalem decision, the U.S. set the stage for Israel’s massacres and has the blood of innocent Palestinians on its hands.”

The CSIS director for Turkey points out that here the Turkish president made it even more clear that he intends to escalate and broaden his campaign against the United States.

Meanwhile the United States has chosen not to respond directly to Turkish criticisms - unlike Israel which has been engaged in war of words with Turkey.

It is likely that the current discourse will exacerbate the current malaise in U.S.-Turkish relations, Aliriza notes, by adding another dimension to the list of intractable problems on the agenda which include the continuing U.S. military support to the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG, the failure to extradite U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government holds responsible for the July 15, 2016 coup; the conviction of Halkbank official Hakan Atilla in the Iranian sanctions evasion trial and Turkey’s commitment to purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system as well as the continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.