Erdogan's Threat to Jerusalem

And what Israel and the U.S. must do in response.

In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital.  In an almost 20-minute speech, President Trump said, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Trump added, “For more than two decades previous presidents have signed a waiver to delay moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and while previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver, today, I am delivering.”

Turkey’s dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is at it again, threatening Israel with cutting off diplomatic relations should the Trump administration recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  In a meeting with a parliamentary group of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan stated that, “This (referring to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) could go as far as cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.  You cannot take such a step.”  He furthermore warned the Trump administration that recognizing Jerusalem would be a “red line” for Muslims.  He suggested that Turkey will take measures in the event of a possible U.S. move, including the convening of the 57 nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

Erdogan’s bluster regarding President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem included such a far-fetched statement as, “Such a move would not only be a violation of international law, but also a big blow the conscience of humanity.”  The dictator who arrested thousands of alleged plotters against him, and who mercilessly bombed Kurdish civilians in southeastern Turkey, should be the last to speak of the “conscience of humanity.” Moreover, Israel has the right, by any law, international or otherwise, to choose its capital. 

Israeli officialdom reacted to Erdogan’s threats with clear outrage. Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, reacting to Erdogan’s statements said that Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 70 years whether Erdogan recognizes it or not.  Israel Katz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Transport, reiterated Israel’s position.  He said on Twitter “We don’t take orders or accept threats from the president of Turkey.  There would be no more righteous or proper historical move now than recognizing Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s capital for the past 3,000 years, as the capital of Israel.”

As Prime Minister of Turkey on July 19, 2014, Erdogan said the following at a rally in the Black Sea city of Ordu, “Israelis have no conscience, no honor, and no pride…Those who condemn Hitler – day and night – have surpassed Hitler’s barbarism.”  The day before at the city of Bursa on the coastline of the Marmara Sea, Erdogan said “World leaders are making weird statements. They say Israel is using its right of self-defense.  What kind of self-defense is it that it is only the Palestinians to die? It is all a game, we face a new Crusader alliance.”

Erdogan’s anti-Semitic tirade was just that. Factually he did not have a foot to stand on.  Israel was attacked by Hamas rockets, which targeted Israeli civilians, and the leaders of the free world recognized that Israel had the right of self-defense.  Moreover, no army was more humane than the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in avoiding harm to innocent civilians, as testified by the Commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp.

Earlier, in March, 2013, during a speech at the UN assembly in Vienna, Austria, Erdogan described Zionism as “a crime against humanity.”  He went on to say that, “It is necessary that we must consider – just like Zionism, or anti-Semitism, or fascism - Islamophobia.”

Erdogan’s “holier than thou” approach to the issue of Palestinians and Jerusalem has to do with Turkey’s role - holding the current presidency of the OIC.  Back in March, 2015, Fuat Ozgur Calapkulu, a leader in Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the eastern province of Siirt, twitted that Erdogan may yet be Caliph.  He made his remark to reinforce the notion that his leader (Erdogan) has always achieved beyond people’s expectations.  Indeed, Erdogan seems to speak on behalf of Islam and the Muslim world which has made him, perhaps in his own mind, the most qualified leader in the Islamic world, or simply put, the Caliph of Islam (a successor to the Prophet Mohammad).  

Erdogan began his political career in an Islamist political party. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Erdogan was active in Islamist circles, and became a member of the Necmettin Erbakan Islamist Welfare Party.  From 1994-1998, Erdogan served as Mayor of Istanbul.  A military takeover banned the Welfare party and temporarily ended Erdogan’s career.

The idea of an Islamic caliphate is deeply intertwined with Turkish history. The Ottoman Empire claimed the caliphate from the 14th century to the early 20th century. As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, undertook reforms and abolished the caliphate, effectively leaving the political lineage of the prophet Muhammad unclaimed. Since that point, secularism has long been an important, though divisive, feature of Turkish political life.

To curry favor with the Islamic states of the OIC, and appear as its champion, Erdogan is habitually attacking the U.S. and the West.  Erdogan’s lieutenants parrot the same.  Speaking on behalf of Erdogan at a NATO meeting in Brussels, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC-TV that “This (U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) can go as far as severing Turkey’s ties with Israel.  I am warning the U.S. not to take such a step which will deepen the problems in the region.” He added, “We have to warn the U.S. that such a decision will be against the UN resolutions and international law and international agreements.”

Erdogan’s regime threats to Israel are not new.  In September, following the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq non-binding referendum on independence, which Israel supported, Erdogan threatened to halt steps being taken toward normalization with Israel.  He said, as reported in the Turkish Daily Sabah that, “If Israel does not reconsider its support for Kurdish independence, Turkey will not be able to take many steps we would have with Israel too.” 

In June, 2016, Israel and Turkey resumed full diplomatic relations.  The relationship was strained following the 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed when the Islamist Turkish group heading the flotilla sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas terrorist Gaza enclave. One reason for the rapprochement with Israel has to do with Turkey’s need for the newly discovered Israeli gas and oil.  Turkey also wants Israeli tourism that once contributed richly to its economy.  Turkish businessmen and investors, not Erdogan, seek better relations with Israel.

Erdogan has replaced Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad as the on-duty anti-Semite.  Erdogan’s targeting Israel for abuse stems from his self-appointed role as the protector of the Palestinians. In particular, the Hamas terrorist organization, whose Muslim Brotherhood ideology Erdogan shares. The latest threat to cut off relations with Israel over the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is yet another effort on his part to intimidate Israel, and show his contempt for America to his fellow Muslims.  Neither Israel nor the Trump administration must yield to Erdogan’s threats.