Erdogan threatens to cut ties with Israel over Jerusalem controversy

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the Parliament in Ankara on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 06 December 2017
0

Erdogan threatens to cut ties with Israel over Jerusalem controversy

ANKARA: Speaking at a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey may cut its diplomatic ties with Israel if Washington follows through on its reportedly impending recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“You cannot take such a step. Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” he said, adding that such a decision would be the violation of international law, and “a big blow to the conscience of humanity.”
Erdogan also stated that, if US President Donald Trump’s administration does take such a step, Turkey would call for an immediate meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which Turkey currently chairs, to oppose it.
On Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters that formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital would lead to a new conflict in the Middle East and result in a major catastrophe.
“The status of Jerusalem and Temple Mount has been determined by international agreements. It is important to preserve Jerusalem's status for the sake of protecting peace in the region,” he said.
However, these critical statements, echoing the warnings of other regional leaders, come amid a nascent and fragile push for normalization between Turkey and Israel, with the restoration of diplomatic ties at ambassadorial level in 2016 following a serious political crisis when 10 Turkish activists were killed in the 2010 Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla.
Experts think the potential fallout from recognition of Jerusalem will further complicate not only Turkey-Israel relations, by obstructing the ongoing efforts for rapprochement process, but will also have serious repercussions throughout the region.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues for the Muslim world, including Turkey.
“Such a decision would be ill-timed and controversial in the sense that provoking tension between the Arab world and Israel will not only undermine US efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also damage the fragile cooperation between Israel and the Gulf countries against Iran,” Selin Nasi, an Istanbul-based analyst of Israel-Turkey relations, told Arab News, while noting that Turkey’s capacity to prevent the US from recognizing Jerusalem is limited.
She added that Turkey’s position on the status of Jerusalem has been a consistent one.
“Turkey opposed Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 War. In 1980, when Israel’s Knesset passed the Basic Law, Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, which declared Jerusalem as Israel’s complete and united capital, Turkey downgraded diplomatic relations to second secretary status,” Nasi explained.
Trump’s possible recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “will likely damage efforts to rebuild mutual trust” between Turkey and Israel, she suggested, adding however that since 2016 low-profile relations have continued through issue-based partnerships.
As an immediate reaction to Erdogan’s comments on Tuesday, Israel’s Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli official as saying, “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for 70 years, whether Erdogan recognizes it as such or not.”
The Israeli Minister of Intelligence and of Transportation, Yisrael Katz, tweeted, “We don’t take orders or accept threats from the president of Turkey.”
Nimrod Goren, head of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, told Arab News: “The efforts by Arab and Muslim countries make clear to the US administration that they flatly reject an American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and that such a move will have negative consequences regarding prospects for peace, are legitimate.”
He added that such efforts “are said to have already influenced Trump's past decisions regarding a possible embassy move to Jerusalem.”
Nevertheless, he added, Turkey’s threat to cut ties with Israel does not make sense in this context, and may derive from a wish to appeal to public opinion in the region.
“The controversies between Israel and Turkey regarding Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue are known and are not new,” Goren said. “They are already making an impact on bilateral ties and are limiting the degree of cooperation between the countries. But, Turkey and Israel have managed — since the signing of their reconciliation agreement — to find ways in which they can develop working relations despite the controversies. It would be a mistake to let a wrong decision by Trump ruin this.”
Trump is expected to announce his final decision on the recognition of Jerusalem on Wednesday.
 


Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

Updated 53 min 29 sec ago
0

Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

  • Israel says the Bedouin village was constructed illegally
  • The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Palestinian Territories: Under the sun’s harsh glare, dozens of students sing the Palestinian national anthem — beginning a new school year early as part of efforts to keep their village from being demolished.
The students of Khan Al-Ahmar went back to their village school in the occupied West Bank on Monday, while Israeli authorities seek to evict them.
“We are starting the school year earlier because the Israelis want to destroy the school,” said Amani Ali, 11.
“So when they come to demolish it, we will be here.”
Israel says the Bedouin village, located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem near Israeli settlements and on the road to the Dead Sea, was constructed illegally and is seeking to move its 191 residents elsewhere.
The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities in around 60 percent of the West Bank where they maintain full control.
On May 24, Israel’s supreme court allowed authorities to go ahead with demolition of the small hillside village that sits between a highway, the desert and two Israeli settlements.
Since then, two new court challenges have been filed on behalf of the village, temporarily suspending demolition plans, and the court plans to hold another hearing by August 15 at the latest, activists say.
European countries have rallied to support the villagers, calling for demolition plans to be canceled.
“The fact that the students are at the school can prevent the decision from being carried out because they are going to see that there are classes, life, people,” said Ghadir Darsya, who has taught in Khan Al-Ahmar for three years.
“No one knows what’s going to happen,” she added, while sorting books with her colleagues amid the sound of children’s voices from an adjacent playground.
The school was constructed in 2009 with the support of NGOs and the European Union. Largely built with tires, sand and mud, it serves 170 students from various Bedouin villages, according to the principal.
“There are about 50 families with many children. Where are they going to go?” said Darsya.
The rest of the village is made up of homes of metal sheets, cardboard and wood, as is common in such Bedouin communities.
“We are always afraid. I cannot sleep at night,” said Raya Jahalin, as her grandchildren played on a large carpet behind her that serves as a living room devoid of furniture.
“It is our land. I have lived here for 50 years. I was born here. My children were married here.”
The villagers say Khan Al-Ahmar has been located there since 1952.
It was established after Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe were, according to rights activists, expelled from the Negev desert in the south after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Israeli authorities now want to relocate them to an area near Abu Dis in the West Bank, but the villagers are refusing, saying that the site is near a dump and in an urban environment where their animals cannot graze.
For Eid Abu Khamis, a village spokesman, forced eviction of Bedouins throughout the area would put in peril the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
If they are replaced with Israeli settlers, Khamis and rights groups say the West Bank could be cut in two, dividing the half north of Jerusalem from the southern one.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem says around 180 communities are threatened with eviction in the West Bank.
B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz says Israel has for decades pursued a policy of trying to evict Palestinians from the part of the West Bank where it exerts full control.
It has sought to avoid forced transfers, he said, but applies enough pressure on the villagers in hopes that they finally decide to leave on their own.