Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz will receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a short visit to Berlin on Friday. Scholz had already invited Erdoğan after his re-election as president in May, but against the backdrop of Hamas’ attacks on Israel, the visit is particularly explosive. Erdoğan’s stance in the Middle East conflict is clearly anti-Israel; he repeatedly rails against the government of President Benjamin Netanyahu.
For Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews, it is clear: “Anyone who not only denies Israel’s right to exist, but actively fights it, must not be a partner for German politics.” This is what he told the Germany editorial network. “The Chancellor must use the Turkish President’s visit to make it very clear to Erdoğan that his relativization of Hamas terror will not be accepted under any circumstances.”
For the Chancellor, the visit will be a tightrope walk. At stake is also a new edition of the EU-Turkey agreement to limit the influx of refugees. Billions in aid for Turkey to care for refugees are also being discussed.
“Bloodsuckers” and “fascists”: That’s how you think Erdogan about Israel
However, some of the Turkish President’s statements on the Middle East conflict and Israel cannot be ignored. While Israel and Turkey maintained close military cooperation in the 1990s, Erdoğan has long had a negative attitude towards Israel. Since Erdoğan came to power, relations have increasingly deteriorated.
Even before Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel on October 7, Erdoğan made his position clear. A chronology of his worst statements:
- In July 2014, shortly before his election as Turkish president, Erdoğan described Israel as a “terrorist state.” Israel has “no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” he said.
- Four years later, Erdoğan again declared Israel the “most fascist and racist state in the world.” He also took up the Hitler comparison again: “The spirit of Hitler, who led the world into a great catastrophe, comes to light in some of the leaders of Israel.”
- In the wake of the flare-up in the Middle East conflict, Austria underlined its support for Israel in 2021. Erdoğan then said he cursed Austria and believed the country was trying to “pay the Muslims the bill for the Jews it subjected to genocide.”
- In the same speech, he again referred to Israel, saying it was “in Israel’s nature” to want to kill the Palestinian people. “They are murderers, they kill children who are five or six years old. “They are only satisfied when they suck their blood,” Erdogan continued.
- At an AKP event late last month, Erdoğan appeared wearing a Palestinian scarf. There, too, he said what was happening in the Gaza Strip was a massacre and a war crime. This massacre was “the work of the West.” He sent Israel forward because he didn’t want to get his hands dirty. The Jewish state is just a pawn that will be used by the West and one day sacrificed. In addition, Hamas is not a “terrorist organization, but a liberation group that fights to protect its country and its citizens.”
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Erdoğan is pursuing domestic political goals with his agitation
At least in supporting Palestine, the otherwise divided country finds a common denominator. There are therefore clear domestic political intentions behind Erdoğan’s statements. Local elections will take place in Turkey in five months. In particular, Erdoğan wants to recapture the large cities of Ankara and Istanbul, where he was once mayor, from the opposition. The AKP’s pro-Palestinian rally on October 28 can be seen as a prelude to the upcoming election campaign.
Since the last elections, a new party has also brought anti-Israel incitement into politics. Hüda Par, the Kurdish version of Hezbollah in Turkey, came into government through a deal with the AKP. In return for the AKP’s public support, they received seats in the government.
The Turkish opposition is now accusing the president of having a bruised ego. Ali Babacan, Turkey’s former EU negotiator and now leader of the bourgeois-conservative Deva party, wrote on Twitter that Erdoğan only started criticizing Israel because he had failed as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.