Erdogan ‘impressed’ by Netanyahu, plans to visit Israel

Turkey’s president ‘impressed’ by his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and asked for help in repairing relations with the White House.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Turkish President Recep Erdogan met Thursday in New York with 15 American Jewish leaders on the sidelines of the opening of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly and told them he would soon be coming to Jerusalem.

In his first face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two days previously, the two had exchanged invitations to visit their respective countries. The Israeli leader had been scheduled to visit Turkey in July, but had to call it off due to his need for surgery to implant a cardiac pacemaker.

Erdogan told the group that he intends to go in the near future.

“As a Muslim, it is my right and obligation to pray in the Holy Mosque,” he noted, in reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Erdogan is a religious Muslim. The political party that he founded over 20 years ago and still leads, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is religiously very conservative although it denies being Islamist.

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Going to pray for the first time at Islam’s third holiest site during the centenary of the establishment of the modern Turkish state could also be a welcome symbolic move for Turkey’s leader.

The signing of the Treaty of Lausanne that put a final end to conflicts emanating from World War I took place on July 24, 1923.

According to Ynet, Erdogan talked of being excited over his country’s rapprochement with Israel, saying that in this new era, “I have an open channel with President Herzog and now I also have an open channel with Netanyahu,” he said.

The president recapped for them his meeting with Israel’s leader, which he said had been “very impressive,” especially noting one of the subjects dear to his heart: the construction of a natural-gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey as a gateway to Europe. Such a pipeline would be of enormous economic benefit to the cash-strapped country.

Other issues he discussed with the group, the report said, included his willingness to help with the current almost non-existent relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Jerusalem, the war on terror, and the importance of Jews and Muslims working together to beat back antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Erdogan also made it clear that he saw the American Jewish community as a conduit to improve his country’s strained relations with the White House, asking for the leaders’ help in the matter.

Israel and Turkey only restored full diplomatic relations last year, after removing their respective ambassadors in 2018, following years of strained relations in which Erdogan defended Palestinian terrorism and criticized Israel harshly over its counter-terror activities.

He has also spoken territorially about Israel’s capital, saying in 2020 that “Jerusalem is our city, from us,” invoking Turkish history as the main remnant of the Ottoman Empire that controlled the Middle East until its defeat in World War I. On a practical level, Ankara has poured millions of dollars into social projects in the eastern part of Israel’s capital and the Old City in order to gain influence among its Arab population.