What Turkey’s Elections Mean for IsraelTuesday 30/05/2023

Turkey has elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as their president in a runoff election. Erdogan, a member of the Justice and Development Party, or the AKP, ran on a promise to solve Turkey’s inflation problem, provide aid to those affected by the recent devastating earthquake, and solve the issue of Syrian refugees. Erdogan defeated Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a member of the Republican People’s Party, by 52% to 48%. Kılıçdaroğlu ran on a hardline promise to rid Turkey of the refugees.

The AKP, Erdogan’s party, describes itself as a democratic conservative party that does not adhere to any religion. It is considered right-wing, with some experts labeling it far-right recently. Despite the party’s claims that it is not Islamic, most of its support comes from conservatives and Islamic people.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s party, the Republican People’s Party, is the other large political party in Turkey and is social democratic and Kemalist. The party follows six foundational principles, represented in the six arrows on their logo: republicanism, reformism, laicism, populism, nationalism, and statism. The party is more left-leaning socially, supporting LGBT and Women’s rights, alongside being pro-European and pro-NATO.

With Erdogan winning the election, Turkey can be expected to become more nationalist, conservative, and right-wing. The Turkish people have proven loyal to Erdogan, continuing to support him despite his government’s slow reaction to the earthquake and extreme inflation. They are dedicated to the Turkish leader who makes them proud to be Turkish, even though his policies and actions may not be politically in their best interest.

Now, what does this mean for Israel? The Turkish-Israeli relationship has a rocky history, even though Turkey was the first Muslim country to formalize relations with Israel in 1949. In the 2000s, there were several moments where the relationship faltered, stemming from instability in the Middle East and because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2017, Erdogan threatened to end its ties with Israel after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In 2022, Erdogan met with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the first time the two state leaders had met in 14 years.

Even though Erdogan has been in power for many years, his stance on Israel has switched several times. Today, he has a realistic view of Israel’s importance in the Middle East as a strong military and economic point. He views Israel in terms of what they can do for Turkey, and since Israel is prosperous today, he wants to maintain a good relationship with the state. Also, Erdogan may see Israel as a connection to the United States, which Turkey must keep strong.

Erdogan cannot be trusted to behave in any consistent way towards Israel. If a relationship with Israel is good for Turkey, Erdogan will continue establishing diplomatic ties. But if the tide turns and Turkey can no longer extract value from Israel, Erdogan is more than capable of cutting ties and ending the relationship.

By Ethan Wenger – JIJ Intern



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