The Turkish positions condemning the recent rapprochement between the UAE and Israel and the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries came to reflect the reality of the Turkish positions on regional developments that began to surround Turkey from several aspects. Today, Turkey lives in a state of political alienation on more than one front. It has started to forge close ties with the forces of chaos and anarchy in the Middle East, its role in Iraq and Libya being a clear example of this. Accordingly, the rising and influential UAE role in more than one regional file constitutes an embarrassment to Turkey's negative role in the region. The decision-maker in Ankara has begun to read the implications of this rapprochement for the future of the Turkish role in the Palestinian issue and other important regional issues, demonstrating his fear of the possibility that the UAE may neutralize any Turkish move on this path in the future.
The Turkish regime's fake patriotism and its play on the strings of the Palestinian issue
It is clear that Turkey's problem is mainly related to the UAE, and not because of the rapprochement with Israel. This was referred to by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while commenting on this rapprochement. He limited his remarks to the possibility of suspending diplomatic relations with the UAE, without any reference to Israel which has been recognized by Turkey since 1947, and with which Turkey has been linked by a strategic alliance since 1996. These are important indications of the nature of the complexity that the UAE began to pose against the negative Turkish moves in the Middle East in general and the Arabian Gulf region in particular.
During the past period, Turkey has tried, specifically after the escalation of the dispute with Saudi Arabia, to search for political paths, as is the case with Iran, through which it can confer political legitimacy on its roles in the Arab region. It found in the Palestinian issue, specifically the Jerusalem file, an important means to achieve this goal. Despite Turkey’s efforts to converge with Jordan, the sponsor of the Hashemite custodianship of the Aqsa Mosque, and its pressure on King Abdullah II to participate in this sponsorship, in addition to its constant demand for the internationalization of the Hajj (pilgrimage), it was unable to achieve anything in this regard. More importantly, Turkey considers that the UAE-Israel peace treaty could increase the internal division that the Hamas Movement is experiencing in Gaza, between the exterior Hamas which is close to Turkey and Qatar, and the interior Hamas which is close to Iran.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas Movement are still unable to establish a healthy relationship with Israel. Hence, through its good relations with Israel, Turkey sought to get involved as a mediator to solve this dilemma, especially after 2009. However, it soon reached a dead end due to the policy of the axes it adopted at the expense of Arab issues, specifically after the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions, its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and its contribution to regional instability, along with Iran and Qatar, which both shared the same positions with Turkey on the recent rapprochement. Therefore, Turkey fears that the UAE would succeed in presenting itself as an effective Arab alternative between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially that Israel no longer accepts Turkish President Erdogan as a mediator in this issue, which the latter cannot absorb at the present time.
Misplaced Turkish concerns and assumptions
The research and academic circles inside Turkey, specifically those close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), have tried to point out, in many newspapers and periodicals that were issued in recent days, that the UAE-Israeli rapprochement comes within the framework of completing the implementation of the Greater Middle East project that aims - as claimed by those circles - to eventually split Turkey, and that it is an integral part of the Deal of the Century that was previously announced by US President Donald Trump. Therefore, this rapprochement may negatively affect the Turkish interior which today is experiencing a major economic crisis, given that the Israeli economic weight in Turkey, which is reflected in many companies and banks, could be the long arm of this rapprochement, and that it would affect the nature of economic stability in Turkey in the coming days.
In addition to the foregoing, the Turkish viewpoint assumes that Israel has recently been forced to search for suitable allies to act as mediators, and that if they were not found, efforts should be made to that end. This necessity is what drove Israel to the alliance with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, or even conclude gas and energy agreements there. Therefore, the UAE-Israeli rapprochement may reflect on the Turkish role in the Eastern Mediterranean as well, as it may result in security arrangements in this region in which the UAE would play an effective role, which may impose further burdens and restrictions on the Turkish role there.
On the other hand, Turkey fears that its ally Qatar would eventually find itself forced to proceed towards strengthening its relationship with Israel as well. Qatar today is the largest economic and commercial investor in Turkey, and it regularly sends 15 million dollars a month to Hamas Movement in Gaza, with the knowledge and permission of the Israeli authorities. So, how would Qatar continue to play that role if it did not maintain an ongoing dialogue with Israel? Therefore, Turkey wants to preserve Qatar's role at that level, without that role being upgraded to higher levels in a way that might force Turkey to withdraw its military forces from Qatar.
Therefore, it can be said that the Turkish fear of the recent UAE move was that the UAE sent the Arab and Islamic world an important message that it really thinks about the Palestinians, and that Palestinians would not make peace with Israel without protecting Palestinian rights and stopping the annexation measures of their territories. While the issue of annexation may theoretically be outside the framework of the UAE-Israeli bilateral relations, the UAE’s continued emphasis on this issue indicates the existence of a great political understanding of the nature of the responsible role in Arab issues, a vision that Turkey has not been able, through its extended relations with Israel for 73 years, to understand or act accordingly.
The success of the UAE in this political endeavor may produce a Palestinian state that would live in peace with its neighbour in the stage ahead, with financial and political support from the UAE and other Gulf states. This is something that even the Israeli extreme right would not be able to thwart, as long as the UAE efforts would help to create a Palestinian state that lives in peace with the Israeli side. The type of this state would undoubtedly be determined through dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, which would ultimately lead to support by the Arab countries for this practical course.
Turkey’s Arab problem goes beyond the UAE
To overcome the complicated regional reality in which Turkey began to find itself, especially after it has been neutralized by a large segment of the Arab world for reasons related to its support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, which produced a state of political and security instability in those countries, Turkey’s secret relations with the Daesh Organisation, and its alliance with Iran in Iraq and Syria, increased calls on Turkey to amend its policies and negative behavior in the region. Therefore, Ankara is required today, and more than ever before, to try to develop policies that would enhance its position as a regional centre of power, instead of getting heavily involved in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. It is also required to review the nature of its convulsive relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and realize that the correct way to return to the region in an acceptable manner would be through establishing constructive diplomatic contact with them, and presenting more positive cooperative initiatives that would fall in the interest of the countries and peoples of the region, far from the policy of investing in the state of political and security instability witnessed in the Middle East.
Bilal Abdullah | 27 Sep 2020
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