“We remain most curious,” an Arab defense attaché told this author one evening, “how an intelligent man like [Turkish President Recep Tayyip[ Erdoğan stubbornly fails to understand that his services are simply unwanted in the Arab world … How he does not even understand that Turks are not Arabs and Arabs have no intention [to] go back to Ottoman rule.” The Arab smiled and added: “Just because he champions the Palestinian cause does not make him a friend of Arabs.”
In addition to his ideological kinship with Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups, Erdoğan has been more Arab than the Arabs when it comes to the Arab-Israeli dispute. Erdoğan has apparently been hoping to win allies in the anti-Israeli bloc and votes at home where Palestine is a “holy cause.” He has repeatedly called on the Muslim world to unite against Israel.
In a 2017 summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Erdoğan’s Turkey spearheaded the idea of a “Muslim army” that would surround Israel. “Those who think Jerusalem belongs to them today will not be able to find a tree to hide behind tomorrow,” said Erdoğan. Earlier this year Erdoğan called on Muslim leaders to unite against and confront Israel.
As Zvi Bar’el wrote in Haaretz, “Erdoğan wanted an empire but must suffice with an unloved country”. His Muslim “allies” have divergent interests, policies and calculations, often obscured further by sectarian differences. They often fall apart even on common “holy causes” such as Palestine.
In June, crowds gathered at a square in Tehran to protest Iran’s sliding currency and other economic woes. The crowds shouted, “Death to Palestine” and threw stones in anger, forcing storekeepers to close down their shops. They chanted, “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon”.