by instituDE, published on 23 October 2023


"Turkey and Israel: Diplomacy Under the Shadow of Gaza" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

The Turkish government's measured response to the escalating tensions in the Middle East is strikingly different from its previous instances of vehement criticism against Israel during crises. In this current crisis, Turkey has pursued a diplomatic approach aimed at de-escalation, facilitating humanitarian aid access for Palestinian civilians. Nevertheless, the mounting tension, especially if Israel were to launch a ground operation in Gaza, could once again imperil the ongoing normalization efforts between the two countries.

In October 2023, a new wave of Israeli-Palestinian tension is now threatening the latest attempt at diplomatic normalization between Ankara and Tel Aviv. Ankara is so far cautious in its statements. Turkish FM Hakan Fidan made visits to Egypt and Lebanon. He has even come up with an idea of guarantor states for the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Nevertheless, the Turkish diplomatic efforts have not received any attention from regional or global powers. Neither US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken nor President Biden visited Ankara in their recent Middle East tours. 

Since the first day of the Hamas attack, Turkey has struggled to tune a delicate political stance between Israel and Hamas. President Erdogan has reacted with restraint to Israel's excessive use of force against civilian targets in Gaza. Even if a ground operation increases the regional tension, Ankara's reaction is tuned with other regional actors like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, the Gazza operation will surely test the newly normalized Turkish-Israeli relations.

"Why Erdogan Is Unlikely to Cut Ties With Hamas" by Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy

Since Hamas carried out its barrage of deadly attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, Turkey has come under the spotlight for its relationship with the Islamist militant group. Ankara has been a material supporter and enabler of Hamas since 2011. However, until last week, this was mainly perceived by the United States to be a problem only in that it served as a roadblock in Turkey's attempts to normalize its relationship with Israel. Now, the United States and Israel will likely increase pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cut ties with Hamas.

At this point, though, the Hamas relationship has deep roots in Turkey and will be difficult to uproot.

As the rallies were being conducted, Erdogan volunteered to mediate between Israel and Hamas, to prevent the conflict from escalating. Given his relationship with and views on Hamas, it is clear that no one takes him seriously. 

Yet Erdogan now seems ready to walk away from this process of rebuilding ties with Israel. All this demonstrates that the Turkish leader does not shy away from foreign-policy U-turns if he feels they are necessary.

Many speculated that establishing substantive ties with Israel would not be possible until Turkey stopped hosting Hamas on its soil. Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks provided Ankara a unique opportunity for Erdogan to stand with Israel, and one which he is likely to squander. Rather than condemn Hamas and distance himself from a militant group, Erdogan is poised to once again sacrifice Turkey's strategic interests in favor of his Islamist beliefs. 

"Erdogan will continue to host Hamas leadership in İstanbul" by Turkmen Terzi, Turkish Minute

While some in the West accuse Iran of helping Hamas in the Oct. 7 operation, one should not lose sight of the fact that Erdoğan hosts Hamas leaders, and in order to share in Hamas's popularity in the Muslim world, he will continue to provide them with a safe haven in Turkey.

Erdoğan is not happy with the Abraham Accords — the agreements on Arab-Israeli normalization that were signed by Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Sept. 15. The normalization agreement would give the UAE an opportunity to gain a foothold in the Mediterranean. 

Turkey has long argued that it is playing a moderating role toward Hamas, but the Oct. 7 attack shows that Hamas's modus operandi is no less violent than that of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants. Israel will not welcome Erdoğan's call for mediation and will prefer Cairo's involvement to that of Erdoğan and his ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is very pro-Hamas.

Turkey's first domestic military consultancy firm, SADAT Inc. International Defense Consultancy, is providing arms to Hamas.

According to reports, SADAT has been involved in the war in Libya, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Syrian civil war as well as assisting Hamas. In 2018 Israeli intelligence Shin Bet accused SADAT of arming Hamas.


CHP considers Muharrem Ince's return to secure leadership victory in party congress

The Turkish main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), reached out to Homeland Party (MP) chair Muharrem Ince with the aim of bringing him back into the party, as reported by DW Turkish on October 17. This contact's primary goal is to ensure the victory of CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the upcoming party congress, given Ince's perceived influence over certain party delegates. A senior CHP member, known to be close to Kilicdaroglu, said, "Muharrem Ince's place is within the CHP, some CHP members initiated the contact, and Kilicdaroglu did not object.

Turkey's ruling parties reject motion to investigate judiciary corruption allegations

On October 18, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), rejected a parliamentary motion presented by the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) aimed to investigate alleged corruption within the judiciary.

These corruption allegations within the Turkish judicial system recently gained public attention when Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Ismail Ucar sent a letter to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) secretary-general. In the letter dated October 6, Ucar made detailed claims of bribery, nepotism, and other irregularities within the judicial system. 

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced that an investigation had been initiated into the corruption allegations raised by Ucar. However, the extent of this investigation's scope remains uncertain.

CHP leadership candidate Ozel confident of victory in November congress

Ozgur Ozel, a candidate for leadership in the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), expressed his confidence in winning at the party's November congress. During a meeting with journalists in Ankara on October 19, he claimed to have more support among CHP deputies than the incumbent leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. 

Ozel also mentioned that they lead the CHP parliamentary group with 55 percent to 45 percent in favor of change, and they would garner significant support to secure victory at the congress by surpassing expectations.

MHP leader calls for Turkish intervention in Israel-Hamas conflict

On October 21, Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said on social media platform X that Turkey should be prepared to intervene if a ceasefire isn't achieved in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. "If the attacks continue and the situation doesn't improve within 24 hours, Turkey should fulfill its historical, humanitarian, and religious responsibilities," Bahceli said.


Turkey announces 150% increase in defense budget for 2024

Turkey is set to allocate over $40 billion to its defense budget for 2024, as revealed in a presentation by Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz, which marks a significant 150% increase compared to the current year's budget. In 2023, Turkey's defense and security budget amounted to approximately $16 billion. 

Furthermore, during the presentation, Vice President Yilmaz emphasized the government's goal to nearly double defense industry exports, aiming to reach $11 billion from the current $6 billion.

Turkish Government expects significant tax revenue increase in budget proposal

The Turkish government presented a budget proposal to the Parliament, expecting revenues of 3.4 trillion Turkish liras ($121.4B) from value-added tax (VAT) and 1.4 trillion liras ($50B) from the special consumption tax (OTV).

The government aims to collect a total of 4.82 trillion liras by the end of 2023 and estimates that tax revenues will hit 8.335 billion liras by 2024, marking a 72.7 percent increase. As per the proposal, 40 percent of the tax burden will fall on citizens, primarily through VAT on consumer goods.

Turkey's Central Bank expected to raise interest rate by 500 basis points

Economists expect Turkey's central bank to increase its key interest rate by 500 basis points to reach 35 percent in the upcoming week. This projection is based on a survey of 19 economists, who expect an interest rate hike ranging from 250 to 500 basis points during the monetary policy meeting scheduled for October 26. The economists' outlook for the year's end is a key interest rate of 40 percent. 

The central bank raised the rate by 500 basis points to 30 percent last month.


Turkish Foreign Minister criticizes Biden's visit to Israel 

On October 20, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that US President Joe Biden's recent visit to Israel showed US approval of the Gaza's destruction. Fidan added that history would remember this. He also mentioned that Israel had altered the narrative regarding its role in an explosion at a Gaza hospital on October 17. Fidan expressed hope that a summit in Cairo on October 21 would lead to an agreement to halt Israel's offensive.

At the Cairo summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called for establishing a "guarantee mechanism" to oversee the obligations of the parties involved in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Fidan expressed Turkey's readiness to develop this concept further. Fidan also emphasized the need to revive efforts aimed at restoring a peace process based on a two-state solution.

Turkish President discusses Gaza ceasefire with Hamas leader and Sisi

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke on October 20 to address concerns about Israel's human rights violations in the Gaza Strip and discuss the delivery of humanitarian aid. According to the Turkish Presidency, during the call, Erdogan expressed to Sisi his concerns about the "Western silence" regarding the bombing of hospitals, schools, and places of worship in Gaza. Erdogan emphasized that Turkey finds it unacceptable to compel Palestinians in Gaza to migrate and will actively work towards achieving peace, delivering humanitarian aid, and providing medical services as soon as possible.

In a phone call on October 22, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed Gaza with the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh. During the call, Erdogan informed Haniyeh about Ankara's efforts to achieve a ceasefire, provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, and explore the possibility of treating the wounded in Turkey.

Israeli ambassador and diplomats leave Turkey amid security concerns

Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, and other Israeli diplomats departed Turkey on October 19. This move comes after Israel's National Security Council issued a travel advisory earlier in the week, expressing concerns that Israelis might face potential risks due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Foreign ministers to meet in Tehran to discuss South Caucasus peace efforts

Foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia are set to convene in Tehran on October 23 to discuss advancing a peace deal between the neighboring South Caucasus nations. The meeting is intended to address regional matters, free from the involvement of non-regional and Western countries, as stated by the Iranian foreign ministry, according to the IRNA news agency.

Azerbaijan and Turkey to conduct joint military exercises next week

Azerbaijan announced on October 17 that it will hold military exercises with its ally Turkey next week. On its website, the country's defense ministry stated that the maneuvers, which commemorate the centenary of the Turkish Republic, will occur from October 23 to 25 in various regions. These regions will encompass the capital, Baku, the Nakhchivan area, and Azerbaijani territories that were taken from Armenian control since 2020.