Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has ordered his office to start on plans to counter efforts by Turkey to guard Islamic sites in Jerusalem, to protect its Muslim and Palestinian identity, and to prevent “the Judaisation of Jerusalem”.
The Foreign Ministry is expected to implement measures such as outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood – which shares friendly ties with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – and restricting the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in Israel, which allegedly spends around $12 million annually to conduct activities countering Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.
One of the measures in Katz’s plan reportedly consists of forcing TIKA to coordinate its activities with Israeli authorities and not renewing the visa of the organisation’s head which would strip TIKA of its diplomatic status and essentially make it an illegal entity in Israel. Restriction communications between members of the Islamic Waqf, the religious trust organisation which is responsible for managing the Islamic site in Jerusalem, with the Turkish body.
The move by the ministry comes amid reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been personally managing the activities of TIKA over the past couple of years.
“We will not accept a situation in which the Turkish government headed by Erdogan acts to create centres of unrest and incitement in Jerusalem through funding and holding radical Islamic activities,” Katz said in preliminary discussions. He added that Turkey’s alleged undermining of Israeli sovereignty is inspired by the “Muslim Brotherhood and under the auspices and disguise of religious, social, cultural, and educational activities.”
The minister said he would take every necessary step to “pull the rug out from under the diplomatic basis for Turkey’s activities in east Jerusalem in order to bolster Israeli sovereignty in all parts of the city.” He claimed that Turkish influence in Jerusalem is nothing more than an attempt by Erdogan to exert the country’s former control over the city, insisting that “The days of the Ottoman Empire are over.”
“Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all of the Muslims are unfounded and baseless…in accordance with the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, the Jordanians have special status as far as concerns the holy places to Islam in Jerusalem, and we will not allow Erdogan to harm Jordan’s status, as is happening today.”
While Katz accuses Turkey of attempting to gain control of the holy sites from Jordan, the Turkish side states the opposite, insisting that it works to ensure that Jordan and the Muslims in Jerusalem retain their management over the holy sites in the face of continuous threats from the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers. The Al-Aqsa compound – or the Temple Mount, as the occupation forces refer to it – is regularly invaded by settlers who intend to build the Third Jewish Temple over the site while being protected by Israeli soldiers and police, as recently took place on the celebration of the Jewish New Year at the end of September. Palestinian worshippers’ access to the site is limited during these times and many are denied entry to the mosque by occupation forces.