Turkey seeks closer ties with Israel, Erdogan says, but Palestinian policy is a “red line”

Turkey wants better ties with Israel, but Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is still “unacceptable,” President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Turkey and Israel, which were once allies, have been hit hard in recent years. Ankara has repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.

It has also criticized recent negotiations between the United States and four Muslim countries.

“Palestinian policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestinian policy. Their ruthless actions there are unacceptable,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“If there were no issues at the highest level (in Israel), our ties could have been very different,” he said, adding that the two countries continued to share intelligence. “We wanted to bring our bands to a better point.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Erdogan’s statement.

Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s ambassadors in 2018 after Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians in clashes at the Gaza border.

In August this year, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very unfriendly move”.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, and the group has fought three wars with Israel since then. Turkey says Hamas is a legitimate political movement that won power through democratic elections.

Israel has formalized its ties with four Muslim countries this year – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. It said on Wednesday that it was working to normalize ties with a fifth Muslim nation, possibly in Asia.

Ankara has abolished the US-brokered deal, with Erdogan previously threatening to sever diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and withdraw its envoy. Turkey also accused Bahrain of deciding to formalize ties as a blow to attempts to defend the Palestinian cause.

Palestinians see the US-brokered deal as a betrayal of a long-standing demand that Israel first meet their demands for a state. Egypt and Israel established full relations in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

(REUTERS)