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Erdoğan, Israel and Egypt

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement implying that Israel was behind the coup in Egypt is a reflection of a rising and troubling trend of anti-Western sentiment among government officials and the public.

Widespread anti-Western feeling has been on the rise, especially since the Taksim-linked protests, when Erdoğan bashed the Western media and global interest lobby daily for instigating instability in Turkey. His harsh criticism of the West helped encourage anti-Western rhetoric among the public, and Erdoğan has even demonized those who he alleged were conspiring with the West to overthrow the prime minister.

When the Egyptian army, which has held the same ideology for five decades, ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Erdoğan described Egypt as a playground of "dark forces" that don't want prosperity in the Muslim world. Last week, he spoke about a global plot against the Muslim world and blamed the West for many of the woes these countries face.

On Tuesday, he implied that Israel was behind the coup in Egypt, citing a statement by Bernard-Henri Levy, a French Jew, as a proof of his argument.

These statements have definitely helped Erdoğan unite his ranks and strengthen his electoral base just ahead of three key elections next year. The rough anti-Western rhetoric of the prime minister created an illusion among his followers that the fall of the West is imminent and that the "glorious triumph of Turkey" is at hand.

These statements have also deepened divisions in Turkey, prompting government apologists to demonize those who have shown signs of sympathy with the West. The polarization that these remarks have caused in the society is immense.

Hours after Erdoğan's Egypt comments, which prompted condemnation from Washington, some of Erdoğan's advisers as well as pro-government journalists and activists started to claim in social media that the prime minister didn't say that Israel was behind the coup. This single fact illustrates that Erdoğan's statements are targeted for domestic consumption and have little to do with Ankara's foreign policy agenda.

Israel's role in some of the events in Egypt is undeniable. The main reason for the world's relative silence regarding the coup is concern about Israel's security. Washington fears alienating the Egyptian military, which has kept its promise to remain friendly to Israel for three decades in exchange for some $60 billion, and so has avoided publicly confronting the army despite its brutal crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters. A number of reports also suggested that Israeli diplomats are working full time in Western capitals to make sure the Egyptian army gets the kind of support it needs. These omens are not enough, however, to conclude that Israel was behind the coup in Egypt.

It is unclear to what extent Erdoğan will ramp up his harsh rhetoric against the West, but it is obvious that this rhetoric is harmful both at home and abroad. Constantly sending a signal to the West that "I hate you and I will make sure that my people hate you too" is not a smart idea for a country seeking to become a part of the Euro-Atlantic political and economic structure. Instead of bashing the West for its role or inertia in the deepening political turmoil in Egypt, Turkey could use its influence to convince Western capitals that the era of benefiting from the rule of army-backed governments in the most populous Arab country is over.

You can follow the author on Twitter @MahirZeynalov (English) and @MahirZeynalov_ (Turkish).

@R.Khan. The mentioned NYT article doesn't prove at all your conspiracy theory. And it's absolutely untrue that the Sisi government is in a dialog with Israel. There is a close colaboration on security issues in Gaza and Sinai but nothing beyond that. And the persumed lobbying in Washington wasn't t...
Israel actually played a very active role in supporting the coup as well as the latest bloody massacre carried out by the Egyptian Junta-thus Erdogan is correct in his accusations against Israel and the Saudi and UAE despots. This was made clear in the front page of the NYT where the article detail...
R. Khan
This article is a faulty trial to save at least a bit of Erdogan's honor, which of course is futile in all respects. Of course Israel favours the Sisi gowernment instead of Morsi (who declared the wish to destroy the Zionist entity). But as compared with the gulf states Israel's involvement is with ...
You claim Israel's role in some of the events is undeniable. What proof do you offer? Israel has been very careful not to be involved in anyway with what is an Egyptian internal issue. The US, and many Arab nations in addition to Israel have an interest in seeing a stable Egypt, democratic or not...
Interesting that you only cite Israel's diplomatic work (unsubstantiated) in helping the Egyptian military's interests, and you completely leave out the much greater work that Saudi Arabia and the emirates are doing, especially to fund the military to a much greater extent than anything the US is of...
@Mahir, and the hate, murder and terrorism against Israel and Jews abroad, by Muslims is ALSO UNDENIABLE.
When opposition attacked, people killed, wounded suppressed in Turkiye, no harsh or strong condemnation by the USA, but When Erdogan uses his usual conspiracy theory against Israel US ready take a very strong position. What a hypocracy, and double standartness . An American foreign policy based on ...
The prime minister has become too divisive in his speeches lately, that certainly polarizes people in Turkey. Electoral calculation? Hope yes. Otherwise signs are ominous.
Despite all the crises he caused with his anti-Israel rants, Erdogan should have calculated by now that bashing Israel might work in Turkey but definitely damage Turkey's interests abroad.
What country are you living in Mahir?. You reading of the situation is exactly opposite. People in Turkey are embarrassed by the words of this obviously unstable man who has blamed virtually every neighbour and every country in the region for the stupidity of his own actions. If Erdogan is still in ...
What do you suggest Zeynalov? Should Turkey join the Israel-Azarbaijan alliance?
Ferhat B
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