Researcher: Erdogan exploits Gaza war for the sake of municipal elections

Researcher in Turkish affairs, Dr. Osama al-Saeed, considered that the shift in Erdogan’s rhetoric towards the events in Gaza is an attempt to appease the Turkish street, especially with the approaching municipal elections. At the same time, he pointed to the continuation of Turkey’s relations with Israel despite everything that Erdogan is promoting.

Researcher: Erdogan exploits Gaza war for the sake of municipal elections
8 November 2023   05:55

Despite the escalation of tension between Israeli forces and Hamas, the Turkish response to the events has witnessed major transformations.

In the first days of the war, Erdogan completely disappeared from the scene, contenting himself with a few tweets on his account on the X platform, which left his supporters disappointed and shocked.

With the escalation of events and the ignition of anger in the Turkish street and in all Islamic capitals against Israel, Erdogan began to change his rhetoric and the way he dealt with the crisis and returned to the populist speeches that he is good at and which his supporters admire around the world.

According to observers, Erdogan's recent speech and his attack on Israel and support for Hamas are only a verbal shift, without concrete measures on the ground, and the matter is nothing more than the idea of jumping on the crisis and trading in it in search of political interests.

Disappointment and shock

The Egyptian researcher in Turkish affairs, Dr. Osama al-Saeed, believes that: “There is a major shift in the Turkish political discourse regarding the crisis in Gaza, especially since the first Turkish position after October 7 was frustrating for Erdogan’s supporters in the Arab region who were waiting for a stronger reaction from the Turkish president towards... What is happening in Gaza in the first days of the war is similar to his previous positions regarding Israel’s crimes.”

He told ANHA agency: “In the first days of the war, Erdogan tried to maintain a neutral position and offered mediation between the two parties and other cold positions that some considered clear failure on the part of Turkey, especially since Ankara hosted a summit several weeks ago between President Abu Mazen and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and wanted to if it interferes with the Palestinian file, it takes negative positions and is less than expected by the supporters of Turkish policy in the region.”

the secret of transformation

According to the researcher, “The shift in Turkish discourse has more than one factor, the first of which is the escalation of Israeli massacres in Gaza, which clearly put pressure on Turkish public opinion, a large base of which sympathizes with the Palestinian cause, which made Erdogan realize that the idea of holding the stick in the middle and offering mediation. It may make him lose the popular backing that supports him, especially with the approaching municipal elections that the ruling coalition seeks to control, and thus Erdogan moved and changed his political discourse in order to appease the angry Turkish street and increase its reaction towards Israel.”

He pointed out that "the other reason for the shift in the Turkish position is Erdogan's attempt to maintain the regional position that he sought to build over the past years and not lose that position to other countries whose positions were more advanced regarding the war in Gaza."

The researcher believes that "the truth of the matter is that the Turkish position has only changed at the level of rhetoric without real measures on the ground. Erdogan adopted populist rhetoric only to please the street, as he denied the accusation of terrorism against Hamas and said that Turkey is moving to declare Israel a war criminal state without revealing any practical steps, considering that "the matter is nothing more than appeasing the Turkish and Islamic street and courting the angry masses in the region in general."

Security and intelligence cooperation

He said, "The Turkish measures on the ground are almost zero, as the economic relations between Turkey and Israel are still strong, and Turkey is one of the countries that deals most with Israeli military industries, and there is intelligence and security cooperation that still exists between the two countries."

Al-Saeed pointed out that “nothing has changed on the ground level after Erdogan’s populist speech. Despite Israel’s objection to denying the accusation of terrorism against Hamas, it is well aware that as long as the relationship has not reached the stage of rupture with Turkey, it is easy to restore matters, especially since the historical precedents between the two countries confirm, despite the Marmara ship accident in which a number of Turks were killed by Israeli army gunfire, relations were restored and the Israeli president was received in Turkey in 2020 with a warm welcome by Erdogan, who was scheduled to visit Israel during the current period had it not been for the events of October 7.

The Egyptian researcher expected that "relations will follow their normal course and Turkey will maintain its economic and military relations with Israel. We may witness some media skirmishes, but they will not rise to the level of estrangement or change the nature of relations on the ground," pointing out that "Turkey fears the American and European reaction, especially since Erdogan was... On a visit to NATO headquarters on the same day as the Cairo Peace Summit in which the Turkish Foreign Minister participated.

Al-Saeed believes that: “Everyone realizes that Turkey will not do anything, especially since even the threat of measures to break the siege on Gaza has been absent and completely disappeared from the Turkish discourse, unlike previous occasions, where Erdogan had previously, in 2018, described the Israeli Prime Minister as a terrorist when the occupation authorities killed 16 Palestinians.” In the return marches, which we have not seen these days, despite the severity of the Israeli massacres against the Palestinians and the killing of nearly 10,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women.”

The Egyptian researcher concluded his speech by emphasizing that: “All of these are indications that the Turkish position will not go beyond or abandon the station of verbal attack and will not rise to higher levels,” pointing out at the same time that “Israel’s persistence in its operations against civilians and the change in the regional position of some countries may affect the future.” The Turkish position and we may witness further change, but until this moment it is only a verbal change.”