Will Turkey's Erdogan Visit Israel in September?

If he does, the Turkish president will complete his rounds of reconciliation with the two enemy nations Israel and Russia.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Credit: Archive

Will be come, or won’t he? Turkish officialdom seems to have some difficulty answering that question definitively. The question refers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who according to Turkish sources is supposed to visit Israel in September. If he does, he would be meeting with the prime minister and president, and visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

It remains to be seen if Erdogan would also be meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The two have a meeting scheduled for late August in Ankara. In any case, if he does come to Israel, it would be a clear statement that the two countries’ formal relationship has overcome the obstacles, that the reconciliation agreement ratified by parliament is in force and Israel will lose its pariah status in Turkish eyes, at least for the time being.

With that, Erdogan will complete his rounds of reconciliation with the two enemy nations Israel and Russia, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of the month and signing a military, intelligence and diplomatic collaboration agreement. The accord could enable Russian planes to make use of the Incirlik air base in Turkey that had served coalition forces attacking ISIS.

Speaking about the possibility that the military collaboration between Turkey and Israel will resume together with the diplomatic niceties, a senior Israeli officer said that the road to there remains long. “The reconciliation does not end Israel’s wariness, because Turkey has close relations with Iran and supports Hamas,” he remarked.

While resuming relations with Russia has already borne fruit for Turkey, especially in economic terms – Russian companies are starting to work in Turkey again and Turkish exports to Russia have resumed – the relations between Erdogan and Germany are deteriorating, in a manner that endangers the refugee exchange agreement Turkey signed with the European Union. The latest blow to these relations was in a leaked report by the German interior ministry, revealed on the public broadcast station ARD, which claims that radical Islamic groups have been using Turkey as a base, and that Erdogan himself identifies ideologically with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The report also says that many of the German volunteers to ISIS carry Turkish passports.

This report was published just a few days after a constitutional court approved a police demand banning Erdogan from addressing tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Cologne by video link.

The German police explained that they were concerned about disturbance to the public order. In response, Omer Celik, the Turkish minister of EU affairs, called it damaging to German democracy and said that it was not just protests that worried the German government, but fear that the political struggle in Turkey would seep through to Germany.

Some 900 mosques around Germany are operated by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs. The religious functions in the organization are fulfilled by Turkey, which also funds their activity through the religious affairs ministry, which is subject to the prime minister’s office.

Germany views the federation’s activity favorably, since it considers the organization to be one that promotes religious tolerance and moderation. But after the Turkish-Islamic Union condemned 11 German parliamentarians of Turkish origin for supporting a resolution defining the slaughter of Armenians as genocide, Germany realized that the organization had become the propaganda arm of the Turkish government and Erdogan.

All this adds to the biting criticism voiced by Germany and other European nations against the Turkish drive to purge organs of government, media and the army. Tens of thousands of suspects and thousands of detainees, including diplomats, intellectuals, journalists and soldiers will shortly be “awarded” cells of their own in the Turkish prisons, after the Interior Ministry decided to release some 40,000 prisoners to make room for the new ones.

Over in the EU, which denounced the coup attempt, they see this campaign as a political effort to eradicate rivals who did not necessarily have anything to do with the coup. Public sentiment in Europe spells out to their leaders that it will be very difficult to give Turkey more rewards under the refugee agreement, especially a visa exemption for Turks.

Turkey for its part spells out that if no agreement is reached on the visa exemption for its citizens by October, it will walk away from the agreement. Whether its threat is serious remains highly doubtful, as Turkey is expected also to get $6 billion in exchange for restricting the passage of refugees. But Europe is worried. Since the agreement was signed in March, the number of refugees passing through the Aegean Sea has dropped to 89 a day, from 1,740 a day in the months before the agreement. As things look now, the EU is unlikely to sacrifice its own interest – cleansing Europe of refugees – on the altar of human rights in Turkey.

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