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Jordan, Saudi, PA warn Israel against Turkey influence in Jerusalem

June 29, 2018 at 12:32 pm

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Berk Özkan/Anadolu Agency]

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have all separately warned Israel over the past year about the growing influence of Turkey in occupied East Jerusalem.

Senior officials in Amman and Ramallah told Haaretz that Arab states have reportedly cautioned Tel Aviv that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue”.

Israel said it has been monitoring the activity of Turkish organisations and activists, and noted an increase in funding to Islamic institutions in Jerusalem from Turkey, and a rise in Turkish tours of Al-Aqsa Mosque, organised by agencies with close links to the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“They’re [Turkey] trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” said a source in Israel Police. “It’s also a source of concern for the PA which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem.”

Read: Turkey condemns Israel’s approval of new settlements

Numerous Turkish activists also took part in Palestinian protests over Israel’s occupation, particularly in 2017, when defence officials allege hundreds of Turkish nationals established “a regular presence in and around the city” and stood up to occupation forces during Friday prayers. Many were arrested by security and some were deported and barred from entering Israel again.

Last month, Turkey ordered its Israeli ambassador to leave Ankara in protest of the 135 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces at the Gaza border as part of the Great March of Return. In response, Israel also instructed the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave the country.

Israeli sources claimed that the consul was involved in Turkish efforts to increase the country’s standing in East Jerusalem, including by assisting groups that have ties to IHH, the NGO that organised the 2010 Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza; ten Turkish activists were killed after Israel raided the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.

Read: Arab-Israeli Intelligence meeting in Aqaba to discuss the ‘Deal of the Century’

Jordan has reportedly accused Israel of “sleeping at the wheel” with regard to the phenomenon and said that Tel Aviv was slow to react to Turkey’s growing presence in East Jerusalem due to the reconciliation agreement signed between the two countries in early 2016. Amman’s concern stems from its own standing as the custodian of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem, a position it suspects Turkey is trying to undercut.

Saudi Arabia seeks to limit Turkish influence that would present President Erdogan as the only challenger to the Trump Administration’s peace plan in the region. Riyadh has allegedly backed the “deal of the century” which is expected to sacrifice the Palestinian demand for an independent state.

Read: Saudi website insults Erdogan after his victory