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Erdogan, Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood

Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations will resume without Turkey's two demands being met: lifting the embargo on Gaza and an Israeli apology for attacking a Turkish aid ship, killing and wounding activists

Hani Raslan , Thursday 14 Jul 2016
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Six years have passed since the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israel off the Gaza coast and after Erdogan escalated his hollow rhetorical stance against Israel with the aim of acquiring a certain amount of support in the Arab region and among Islamist movements, opening wider spheres for Turkish influence in the paths of the Palestinian cause.

After all these manoeuvres, it was declared earlier that there was an agreement on the return of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel without the fulfillment of the main demand Erdogan clung to: lifting the embargo on Gaza. The agreement's most important terms were the return of ambassadors and coordination in international forums, making arrangements concerning Turkey’s buying of Israeli natural gas and exporting it to Europe, and Israel’s paying $21 million in compensation for the families of the victims and wounded in the ship incident.

Israel stipulated that this shouldn’t be done until the Turkish parliament issue a law closing all complaints Turkey filed after the incident. At the same time, Israel did not offer the apology Erdogan insisted on. Rather, Netanyahu presented a formula that expresses sorrow for the fall of the victims.

As for Gaza, Israel refused to lift the blockade, stipulating that not a single act against Israel be launched from Turkish lands along with the expulsion of any Hamas member working within the military wing and that Turkey mediate the return of Israeli corpses missing in Gaza.

In return, Israel allowed the entry of Turkish food aid to Gaza through Israel and not to Gaza directly. Israel also agreed that Turkey build a hospital and construct an electric power plant without softening the land, naval or air blockade.

Israel justified this by stating it agreed on helping the population in Gaza, intimating that its policy is to make a separation between the population and Hamas and the projects agreed upon, which are related to matters such as water, electricity, hospitals. It further intimated that in Gaza there are worrying signs concerning the collapse of civil infrastructure, which ultimately would harm Israel. Thus, it is in Israel's interest to handle the situation and seek that other countries lend a hand.

It is noticeable that security and military relations were not cut during the period of apparent estrangement with Israel. Trade exchange between the two countries amounted to $6 billion last year.

What, then, drove Erdogan to end his theatrical show and retreat? What were Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood’s reactions in general towards Erdogan, who was long portrayed as a hero brandishing his sword in the style of the Middle Ages?

As for Erdogan, it is clear that his illusions that were augmented following the Arab Spring revolutions and his attempts to embody the Ottoman sultan or caliph began to fall apart after the failed results of his misguided wagers became obvious and the negative repercussions started to arrive within Turkey on both the economic and security levels. Perhaps this may explain Turkey's new policy of seeking to minimise the number of its enemies and increase the number of its friends.

As for Hamas, it issued a statement welcoming Turkish efforts to alleviate the suffering of Gazans. The Muslim Brotherhood also issued a statement conveying the same meaning.

There is no interpretation of these standpoints outside their common opportunistic characteristics, for Hamas is treating Gazans as captives in order to stay in power and consequently it makes itself availed to any regional project supporting its continuance in power.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, they are opportunists due to their intellectual and psychological composition. Thus, they change their colours with every change in situation.

The writer is head of the Nile Basin Studies Department at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

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