According to an Israel newspaper, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the PA have all voiced their trepidation to Israel over Turkey’s President Erdogan, and his maneuvering to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue.”
Israel has been warned the past year by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority over Turkey’s growing influence in Jerusalem, particularly President Erdogan’s attempt to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue,” Haaretz reported on Thursday.
Israeli defense officials confirmed the warnings to Haaretz, adding that Turkey’s activities in Jerusalem have been monitored closely by Israel.
Such activities included donations by Turkey to Islamic organizations in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, organizing of arranged tours by Erdogan’s AKP party as well as demonstrations by Turkish citizens in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The defense officials told Haaretz that the concern over Turkey’s growing influence in the holy city peaked last year when hundreds of Turkish citizens took part in clashes with the Israeli police during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Although Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have all warned Israel about Turkey’s growing influence in Jerusalem, the sources of concerns differ among them.
Saudi Arabia sees Erdogan’s attempt to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue,” as politically motivated, thus presenting himself in the Arab world as the protector of the Palestinian’s rights while standing up to US President Trump.
Although Saudi Arabia has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians, it is closely linked to the US, and has been less critical than Erdogan of President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Jordan is afraid that Turkey’s actions will affect the kingdom’s role as the custodian of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem, which Jordanian officials reportedly told Israeli officials they were afraid Erdogan is seeking to undermine.
Lastly, the Palestinian Authority sees the Turkish support of Islamist organizations in Jerusalem as a source of concern since they are often closer linked to its rival, Hamas.
Jordan’s concern that Israel has been “sleeping at the wheel” after Turkey and Israel’s rapprochement in 2016 was however denied by the defense officials who said that Israel had taken the actions needed.
“They’re (Turkey) trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing. It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem,” a source in the Israel Police told Haaretz.
Last months crisis between Israel and Turkey, which saw the expelling of both countries diplomatic representatives, also had a link to the concern over Turkey’s influence in Jerusalem.
The Turkish consul in Jerusalem, Hüsnü Gürcan Türkoğlu, is a long time member of Erdogan’s AKP party and had reportedly been assisting Islamist groups that have ties to IHH, which is the organization that was behind the 2010 Turkish flotilla to Gaza.
Nine Turkish citizens died when Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara flotilla which led to a six-year long diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey.
Turkey and Israel reconciled in 2016 but the relationship hit a new low last month when Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused each other of being terrorists.
Erdogan initially accused Israel of “state terror” and “genocide” over the killing of dozens of Gazans during clashes on the border on May 14.
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