In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Turkish Jewish dissident Rafael Sadi discuss the recent Turkish-Dutch tensions, the Dutch election results and how it will influence the State of Israel.
Photo Credit: Rafael Sadi
In recent times, there has been a diplomatic crisis between the Netherlands and Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Minister was not permitted to land at the Amsterdam airport and the Turkish Minister of Family Affairs was expelled from the country. All of the major political parties in the Netherlands supported the government in this move except for Denk, a small Turkish Moroccan party. In two exclusive interviews with JerusalemOnline, Turkish Jewish dissident Rafael Sadi and Israeli scholar Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld discussed the implications of these developments for the State of Israel.
According to Sadi, what Turkey did to the Netherlands in recent days could just as easily happen to Israel. He claims that Israel or another foreign enemy such as the Netherlands or Germany is the best argument that Erdogan can use in order to get Turks to support the referendum: “The best way to be a hero and to win elections is to fabricate a false enemy. Israel is best fit for this role. Israel’s Muezzin Law could be the next game that he plays. Erdogan knows how to create any new scenario.”
Gerstenfeld believes that Erdogan will also work on creating foreign enemies for Turkey so that he will have the best chance of winning the referendum and this could potentially affect Israel: “As the referendum is on 15th of April, we will see that for coming weeks, they will continue with their anti-Dutch propaganda for it will help them domestically. They said that the Netherlands should apologize. The Dutch refused. The Turks treated the Dutch like Erdogan treated Israel during the elections over ten years ago. Erdogan then attacked Israel just to get domestic votes. Now, they have found another target.” Gerstenfeld stressed that the Dutch Turkish voters were not so much important to Erdogan. He merely sought to create a conflict in the Netherlands and also Germany so that Turkey would be portrayed as a victim of European animosity.
However, the issue is not one sided. According to Sadi, both sides of the dispute utilized foreign diplomacy for domestic consumption: “Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the elections and Wilders increased his parliament members. They won votes by fighting against Turkey. On the Turkish side, Erdogan became a hero to his voters. I believe that he increased the number of Turks supporting the referendum by 2-3%. The Turkish diaspora reacted mostly on Erdogan’s side exactly as he planned. From my point of view, this crisis with Europe will end after the referendum.”
However, Gerstenfeld warned that Israel should be cautious about viewing the election results in the Netherlands as a positive development for Israel merely because the winners engaged in anti-Turkish rhetoric: “The current government is of the VVD and the Labor Party. The foreign minister was from the Labor Party and was anti-Israel. The Labor will not return to the government but another left of center party that is also opposed to Israel will enter the government. It is known as the left-liberal D-66 party. They got 19 seats. They will have less influence in the government than the Labor had but we have not gotten rid of all of the anti-Israelis. You have to understand that anti-Israelism is very sizable in the Netherlands. Over 40 percent of the parliament voted to propose to the EU to suspend the Association Agreement between Israel and the EU.”
“We in Israel try to present the Netherlands as a great friend of Israel,” Gerstenfeld noted. “That is nonsense. There are two protestant parties that are great friends of Israel and 20 percent of the Jews vote for them. It is remarkable for these parties only get 5 percent in the elections. So, we should understand that the Netherlands is not a great friend of Israel. The parties that more or less support Israel still have 55 percent of the votes but it depends on the Christian Democrat Party. If that party changes it position, the majority will be against Israel in the parliament. So, our situation has improved a bit but the situation is still problematic.”
In order to emphasize this point, Gerstenfeld told JerusalemOnline that Denk, the Turkish-Moroccan political party in the Netherlands, got 3 seats, which is 2 percent of the vote. However, in Rotterdam, they got 8% of the vote: “Rotterdam is of great interest for Israel because on April 15, there will be a conference for a European front of Hamas. The Rotterdam mayor who is a Muslim and belongs to the Labor Party does not want to forbid it for the anti-terror body does not want to put out a recommendation. Possibly, he does not want to forbid it for the Turkish-Moroccan party is so strong in Rotterdam and his Labor Party already got an enormous beating. This is something that the Israeli government will have to draw attention to. That is really a major scandal. We have people who identify with Hamas. They are organizers of a conference and the Netherlands lets them come.”