Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel worried over Turkish influence in East Jerusalem

June 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Two right-wing members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on Thursday called for convening a parliamentary session to discuss ongoing Turkish support and aid allocations for East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

 Israel HaYom, a Hebrew-language daily close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported that Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a member of Israel’s right-wing Likud party, and Shuli Maalem, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, had called for holding a meeting of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and security committee to discuss Turkey’s prominent role in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

They made the request after the same newspaper published a report on the front page of its Wednesday edition that criticised Turkish humanitarian activity in the historical city.

The report asserted that one century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey had begun to reassert its influence in the area by pouring millions of dollars of aid into East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, referred to by Jews as the “Temple Mount”.

According to the report, Turkey’s allies in East Jerusalem are the bitter enemies of Israel: namely, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel (northern branch), and Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, a former mufti of Jerusalem.

“Since 2004, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has invested millions of dollars in 63 different projects throughout East Jerusalem,” the report stated.

It added: “The overall objective of Turkish activities there is the safeguarding and strengthening of Jerusalem’s Muslim heritage and identity.”

The report goes on to point out that TIKA is currently working to restore Ottoman-era Muslim archives in East Jerusalem and the iconic Dome of the Rock Mosque, noting that a “Turkish presence” was easily discernable in the city.

“Turkish flags and food can be seen everywhere, indicating the country’s influence in the city,” it stated.

According to the same report, ongoing Turkish investment in Jerusalem had eroded the earlier Jordanian influence, despite the Hashemite Kingdom’s historical status as “guardian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites”.

The newspaper went on to lament the mounting popularity of Turkey and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents.

Earlier this month, a report was prepared for Nir Barkat, the Jewish mayor of Jerusalem, on the increasing Turkish influence in the city, entitled, “The Turks take over Jerusalem”.