The simmering tensions between Israel and Turkey are moving the two nations closer to a critical juncture. For now, a full rupture of ties remains unlikely. However, the Gaza war and Ankara’s unwavering support for Hamas are propelling the sides toward a dangerous confrontation.
Israel must not underestimate the intensity of President Erdogan’s animosity, warns Israeli expert Efrat Aviv. Turkey’s longtime ruler never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and often resorts to virulent verbal attacks, she says.
Aviv notes that Erdogan held a major rally in support of Hamas on October 28, at the height of the Gaza war, further underscoring the strained ties with Israel. During the war, Erdogan denounced the Israeli campaign as one of the “greatest atrocities” of the century and compared Prime Minister Netanyahu to Hitler.
Ankara has also invested heavily in promoting radical views and anti-Israel sentiments in Jerusalem, another highly sensitive issue.
On a broader level, Aviv highlighted Turkey’s tendency to smear the West, America, and Israel while avoiding a similar tone against Russia. She predicted that Turkey is unlikely to remain neutral in a potential future world war.
Notably, this is not the first time experts raise concerns about a potential Turkish threat to Israel. An earlier study emphasized the need to closely monitor Turkey’s moves due to its evident hostility. The analysis also suggested that the Western world can no longer rely on Ankara as a trusted partner.
Israeli operations in Turkey?
Looking at the near term, tensions between Israel and Turkey could explode over the issue of Gaza and Hamas. Turkey maintains close ties with the terror group, offering political and economic support as well as other assistance.
Most recently, top Hamas leaders held a secret meeting in Turkey to coordinate their next steps in the Gaza war, Kan News reported.
Israel previously urged Turkey to expel Hamas members, without much success. However, Turkish support for Hamas before and after the October 7 massacre may lead Jerusalem to take stronger steps. Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar disclosed Israel’s plans to target the entire Hamas leadership abroad, even in Turkey.
Underscoring the explosive potential, the Turkish security services warned that targeting Hamas on Turkey’s home turf would have grave repercussions. Shortly thereafter, Erdogan said Israel would pay a “very heavy price” if it attempts to eliminate Hamas members on Turkish soil.
Regardless of its plans to hit Hamas chiefs abroad, Israel will have to make some hard decisions about its future relations with Turkey. While Ankara is an important regional power, it also positions itself as an increasingly hostile actor in Israel’s sphere of operations.
As the IDF continues to pound Hamas and demolish its Gaza terror base, the strain on Israel-Turkish ties is likely to intensify. Erdogan’s vocal and aggressive stance may escalate further, posing challenges and creating dangerous points of friction.