First Published: 2011-06-08


Israel crisis boosts Erdogan’s popularity ahead of polls


Turkey’s crisis with Israel may be winning card for PM in his quest for third term in power in Sunday’s elections.


Middle East Online

By Michel Sailhan - ISTANBUL

Is Erdogan's image benefiting from this East-oriented policy?

Turkey's crisis with Israel, its backing for Hamas and close ties with Iran may irk its NATO allies but they have added to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's popularity in his quest for a third term in power in Sunday's polls.

Just a year ago, tens of thousands of people would demonstrate outside mosques in Istanbul shouting "Down with Israel!" and "We are soldiers of Hamas!" referring to the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

The almost daily protests were triggered by the killing of nine Turks in an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ferry that led an international flotilla aiming to break Gaza's blockade, spearheaded by a Turkish Islamist charity.

Commenting on the outrage, academic Ahmet Insel had then said: "It's good for Erdogan politically, and he will gain from it in 2011."

"This is indeed the case," Hasan Cemal, a columnist for the Milliyet newspaper, said in the run up to the June 12 elections.

They may have not used the same language as protesters, but Turkey's Islamist-rooted leaders reacted furiously to Israel: the Turkish ambassador was recalled from Tel Aviv and President Abdullah Gul declared that ties between the one-time allies would "never be the same."

The crisis remains unresolved.

"Attacking Israel is good for Erdogan's public image as there is always an anti-Israeli sentiment in Turkish politics. And not only in Islamist circles, but also among Kemalists and nationalists," Cemal said.

And that's exactly where Erdogan is seeking to grab more votes, hoping for a sweeping victory to form his third one-party government.

Curiously, noted foreign policy commentator Sami Kohen, Israel or Ankara's support for Hamas were almost absent from Erdogan's election rallies.

"The Mavi Marmara was not mentioned in the campaign but the crisis has certainly reinforced Erdogan's image" as a champion of the Palestinian cause at home and abroad, said Kohen.

A NATO member and a candidate for European Union accession, secular Turkey has alarmed its Western allies under the Islamist-rooted government: the crisis with Israel was preceded by Erdogan's frequent outbursts against the Jewish state after it launched a devastating offensive on Gaza at the turn of 2009.

Concerns that Erdogan is turning his back on the West have increased amid Ankara's growing rapprochement in recent years with the Arab world and Iran.

Most notably, Turkey voted against a fresh round of sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, adopted at the UN Security Council last year.

Turkey "has not simply loathed Western interests but acted against them, in a sign of the West's deteriorating standing in the region," commented analyst Kemal Koprulu, editor of the Turkish Policy Quarterly.

The Israeli case aside, is Erdogan's image benefiting from this East-oriented policy, including Iran?

According to Kohen -- yes. He says the new drive signifies Turkish independence from the West and the United States, expands the country's regional clout and gives Erdogan a "Gaullist" standing with electoral benefits to reap.


Tillerson pushes to undercut Iran at landmark Saudi, Iraq meeting

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Gulf share values plummet

Greening the Camps brings food and hope to refugees

No clear US strategy in Syria after Raqqa liberation

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk