Israel Recalls Diplomatic Staff from Turkiye After Erdogan’s Attack on Gaza Operation
Israel announced on Saturday that it would be recalling its diplomatic staff from Turkiye following a scathing attack by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Israel’s military operation against Hamas militants in Gaza. This decision deals a significant blow to the recent efforts to restore political and economic relations between the two countries after years of strained ties.
Fragile Relations Unravel
Israel and Turkiye, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation and a key NATO ally in the Middle East, had recently agreed to reappoint ambassadors and were in discussions about a US-backed natural gas pipeline project that could have fostered closer cooperation. However, Erdogan’s increasingly venomous criticism of Israel’s retaliatory military operation against Hamas in Gaza led to the unraveling of their relations.
Hamas Attack and Civilian Casualties
The tensions escalated when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and the seizure of over 220 hostages. The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza reported that Israeli strikes have killed 7,703 people, including many civilians and over 3,500 children.
Erdogan’s Fierce Criticism
In response to the situation, Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party organized a massive rally in Istanbul that drew a crowd of 1.5 million people. Erdogan addressed the crowd, accusing Israel of being an occupier, behaving like a “war criminal,” and attempting to eradicate Palestinians. He criticized the lack of justice in the situation and condemned the “vicious massacre” happening in Gaza.
Israel Recalls Diplomatic Staff
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen swiftly recalled all diplomatic staff from Turkiye in light of the grave statements made by Erdogan. Cohen stated that the recall was necessary to reevaluate the relations between Israel and Turkiye. This move follows Erdogan’s earlier announcement that he was canceling his plans to visit Israel due to its “inhumane” war.
Diplomatic Relations at Risk
The recall of diplomatic staff adds a new dimension to the deteriorating relations between the two countries. The situation now mirrors the lows experienced in 2010 when an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians. Erdogan has long been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights and has accused Israel’s allies of creating a “crusade war atmosphere” that pits Christians against Muslims.
Calls for Dialogue and Public Opinion
Erdogan called for dialogue and emphasized the importance of a just peace. His address came in response to days of pro-Palestinian protests organized by right-wing and Islamic conservative groups in Istanbul and other major cities. However, a recent poll showed that the majority of respondents preferred Turkiye to remain neutral or play a mediating role in the conflict. Only a small percentage expressed support for Hamas or Israel.
The recall of Israeli diplomatic staff from Turkiye marks a significant setback in the efforts to restore relations between the two countries. Erdogan’s fierce criticism of Israel’s military operation in Gaza has strained their ties, jeopardizing the progress made in recent years. The situation highlights the deep-rooted tensions in the region and the challenges in achieving a just and lasting peace.