Gaza Violence Exposes Deep Israel-Turkey Divide
In recent flare-up, Israeli fighter jets strike building housing Gaza office of Turkish news agency
The 48-hour military exchange between Israel and Gaza Strip-based armed factions exposed a deep diplomatic divide between the Israeli and Turkish governments, according to analysts.
During the confrontation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched some 700 rockets into Israel, which responded by striking about 320 targets in the Palestinian enclave.
Notably, one of the buildings hit house the local office of the Turkish media outlet Anatolia. According to the news agency’s correspondent, Israeli forces destroyed the building with at least five missiles.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a statement strongly condemning the “indiscriminate” assaults on Gaza as well as the attack on the news agency’s offices.
“We urgently call on the international community to act and ease the escalation of tensions in the region because of the disproportionate Israeli actions,” the statement read in part.
Moreover, the Turkish presidency strongly denounced the targeting of the outlet, while the Palestinian leadership described the move as “an attempt to remove witnesses on the ground in preparation for Israeli massacres in Gaza.”
Abd al-Lateef Qano’u, a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, contended to The Media Line that the targeting of civilian installations showed Israel’s brutality. He added that Hamas had good relations with Turkey, as Gaza’s rulers “back any party that supports the Palestinian cause and tells its story to the world.”
Qano’u also emphasized that Turkey provides a safe haven from which Hamas leaders operate.
“Turkey supports the Muslim Brotherhood [of which Hamas is an offshoot], which employs religion to achieve political aims,” he said.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have reached a nadir, in part because of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for Brotherhood-affiliated organizations and his belief in the merits of political Islam.
Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a Turkey expert at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told The Media Line that the backing of what many countries deem a terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction has contributed to a deterioration in bilateral ties over the past decade.
“At the end of the day, if you are supporting Hamas, your relationship with Israel will be problematic,” he said.
Indeed, many trace the crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations to the 2010 Mavi Marmara episode, in which Israeli forces killed 10 Turks during clashes on a ship attempting to breach the Jewish state’s maritime blockade on Gaza.
Nevertheless, Yanarocak believes that the Anatolia affair will not lead to an escalation since Jerusalem gave prior notice before striking the building, which led to there being no casualties.
Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst, told The Media Line that Israeli attacks on Gaza-based media were not a new phenomenon.
“It [the Israeli military] targeted Palestine TV and the Ma’an news agency, as well as journalists and camera people,” he said.
“Recently, Israel completely destroyed the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV,” al-Masri noted.
He stressed that Ankara nevertheless kept open channels of communication with most nations, including Israel.
“Turkish [foreign] relations are based more on the country’s best interests,” al-Masri said.
Yanarocak went a step further, linking Israel-Turkey relations to US-Turkey ties, which are “not in great shape,” in his estimation.
“Turkey sees Israel as an extension of [Washington]. If they wanted better relations with the US, they would have improved their relationship with Israel,” he concluded.
(Tara Kavaler, an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Program, contributed to this report)