Former Israel Consul General to Chicago, former Israel Consul General to Miami and former Deputy Mayor of Netanya Yitzhak Ben Gad emphasized that despite Turkish rhetoric on the settlement issue, underneath the surface, Turkey is willing to be more accommodating towards Israel than they were previously: “I think that Erdogan is proving every day that he is a leader who knows how to read the political map and to act accordingly.”

Recently, the Newsmakers Show with Imran Garda broadcasted a segment titled “Israel’s illegal settlements” live on Turkish TV. After offering commentary on the issue, they hosted a heated debate between Noor Odeh from the Palestinian Authority and myself. This Turkish TV segment like the numerous press releases issued by the Turkish government illustrate Turkish opposition to Israeli communities over the green line for they believe them to be an obstacle to peace that impedes a two-state solution and accept the argument put forward by the Palestinians that they are against international law.

As recently as December 2016, Hurriyet Daily News reported that the Turkish government expressed concern over Israel’s plan to establish additional Jewish settlements over the green line. Nevertheless, despite Turkey’s natural inclination to support the Palestinian position on this issue, in recent times following the Turkish-Israeli Reconciliation Agreement, the Turkish government has indicated that despite their rhetoric on the settlement issue, underneath the surface, they are willing to be more accommodating of Israel than they were previously. In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Israel’s Former Consul General to Miami, former Israel Consul General to Chicago and Former Deputy Mayor of Netanya Yitzchak Ben Gad proclaimed: “I think that Erdogan is proving every day that he is a leader who knows how to read the political map and to act accordingly.”


Erdogan Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

“In order to serve the nationalist interest, he proved that he has no problem to make a U-turn in his policies the minute he thinks that the new situation requires that he will change his policies,” Ben Gad proclaimed. “For example, Erdogan said recently that America is not doing enough to fight against ISIS and he is right. Obama is not relevant in the struggle against ISIS. He failed in his policy if he has a policy at all. So, he went to Russia and after the Russian war plane was shot down by Turkey, he did everything possible to get close to Putin, to apologize and at the end, he succeeded to meet with Putin. The relationship between Turkey and Russia became normal. He did it for America is no longer relevant and secondly, he knows that hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists come to Turkey. He knew that to have normal relations between the two countries will serve the interests of Turkey.”

“A few years ago, Erdogan supported ISIS,” Ben Gad noted.  “Why? Because he wanted to use them against the Shia influence. When he realized that to be close to ISIS is not acceptable by both Russia and the US, he changed his policy. He is now fighting ISIS. He made a U-turn. Now they are hitting him in Istanbul and other places in Turkey. Another example is Israel. He came to a compromise with Israel because he realized that Israel is a big power in the Middle East. Israel got a good relationship with Greece and Cyprus. Israel is a US ally. He believed that the best thing to do instead of excommunicating Israel is to get compensation for the Mavi Marmara affair and to have diplomatic relations, the exchange of ambassadors and to have military and intelligence cooperation. Erdogan is an opportunist. He knows when to abandon the radical Islamists”

However, bending with the winds has its limits even for an opportunistic leader such as Erdogan: “For him, officially, it is not acceptable that the Kurds will have a state on his border for there are also Kurds in Turkey. He is concerned that if the Syrian Kurds have their own state, then the ones in Turkey will want the same. So he is fighting against Kurds but here he is not getting support from the US and Russia on this. They don’t view the Kurds as enemies. Many people in the world think the time has come for the Kurds to have their own state but this is not Erdogan’s policy. But in my opinion now, Syria after this chaos in Aleppo is not one state today. It is clear now that Syria is going to be divided between the Alawites on the one hand, who are a small minority, the Sunnis who are the big majority and the Kurds who are also Sunni and the Druze. Perhaps the time has come for a Kurdish state in Northern Syria but not Turkey. More than that, I think that the new administration of Donald Trump together with Russian President Vladimir Putin can come to some kind of agreement about the division of Syria and to bring it to the UN Security Council. Then Syria will be divided.”

Nevertheless, even though Erdogan’s Kurdish position does not enjoy the support of the international community, Ben Gad stressed that Turkey as a country and Erdogan’s regime in particular has been strengthened since the last coup attempt within the country: “The coup strengthened him so much that he is now striking against the opposition. It is not very democratic. He has sent thousands of people to prison and closed down opposition media outlets. But he knows how to be a dictator and to maintain power.”

According to Ben Gad, “Erdogan knows that Israel has natural gas.   Turkey needs gas. They get from Russia but Israel is closer. He very much sees the reality. He does not see how Abu Mazen has anything to offer him. Unlike Abu Mazen, whose head is in the clouds, Erdogan is a realist. Abu Mazen is not a realist.  Abu Mazen is against Israel and all of the settlements while ignoring the reality on the ground. He is continuing Arafat’s legacy. Arafat right after he signed Oslo stated in South Africa when he did not know he was being recorded that it was like the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which is a treaty that the Prophet Muhammed signed with his enemies with the intention from the start that it would not be honored. More than that, in the year 2000, he started the Intifada. He killed dozens of teenagers who came to dance in the Dolphinarium Disco. He was a criminal terrorist. Abu Mazen continued Arafat’s legacy by rejecting Olmert’s agreement that was similar in 2008 and continuing to refuse to negotiate as well as to wage terror attacks to date. Abu Mazen is stuck in his ideology not to accept a Jewish state, to be against all of the settlements including Jerusalem, to make Jerusalem the capital city of Palestine, etc. When was the last time Jerusalem was the capital city of an Islamic state much less a Palestinian one?  It was never the capital of a Palestinian state nor a Muslim empire. To the contrary, Erdogan views such a way of thinking to be unrealistic and has adjusted himself accordingly.”

Ben Gad stressed that while the Turkish media and television alongside the Turkish government may openly express sympathy for the Palestinian cause, Erdogan’s policy will nevertheless be more realistic for it will affect the reality on the ground: “Turkey will follow their own interests first and foremost.  As Henry Kissenger stated, ‘The good diplomat believes in compromise. A good compromise is the one that satisfies or dissatisfies all equally.’ Erdogan believes in that. If both sides like it and don’t like it, it is good. It is only bad when one side is dissatisfied and one is satisfied for he will find a thousand ways to break the agreement. To the contrary, Abu Mazen does not believe in compromises. He sticks to his uncompromising philosophy.”

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