Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s December 8 statement that he is looking to improve relations with the apartheid regime of Israel may have damaged his political prospects both among his internal constituency and friends and admirers abroad.
The most likely reason for such public overture to the apartheid occupation regime has to do with worsening economic conditions in Turkey.
This has steered a significant portion of the AKP voters away from the party.
Erdogan knows he is quite vulnerable internally and 2022 could be his last year in office.
By adopting a soft tone towards Israel, Erdogan wants to send a message to foreign powers that he is ready for a bargain on anything if the internal situation in Turkey is not used against him.
It also signals Turkey’s strategic policy choice.
After 20 years in power and many rhetorical speeches about shifting Turkey’s policy away from a NATO-crafted global order, Erdogan has confirmed that he is in no position to go through with these grandiose ambitions.
While the AKP run Turkey never clearly declared that it would reconfigure Turkey’s strategic state identity away from NATO, its more assertive role along with Erdogan’s speeches raised hope in the Muslim world.
The latest events in Turkey, and not merely related to the economy, but also the election of government critic Erinc Sagkan as head of the influential Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), reflect Erdogan’s vulnerable position.
If he were to face a situation similar to what the government faced during the attempted coup by the Gulenist cult in July 2016, the outcome could be quite different today.
Realizing this reality, Erdogan does not want to give Western regimes an excuse to exploit the current situation in Turkey against him.
Given the deep attachment of most people in Turkey with the Palestinian cause, Erdogan’s open capitulation to Zionist Israel will undermine him internally.
The AKP government may not even be aware of the depth of resentment building up.
The Islamic oriented voter base which holds the occupation of Palestine as one of its central foreign policy issues will be disincentivized to vote for the AKP.
In a broader sense, Erdogan’s latest declaration will also split and fracture the domestic scene of Islamic political parties and voters.
Western regimes and Israel would view such an outcome favorably but Erdogan’s inconsistency will be blamed by internal socio-political Islamic organizations.
While Erdogan’s open overtures toward Israel may buy him some time with Western regimes, in the broader context, the West is unlikely to place their bets on him.
Erdogan appears to be at the end of his political life.
Regional players on both sides of the spectrum are unlikely to miss him.
His unpredictability and lack of firm political principles make him an unreliable ally for the resistance axis and its opponents.
Perhaps in a few years’ time, the AKP’s political destiny will form a classical case study of what happens when a Muslim party tries to play both sides of the political field.
This is rank opportunism.
Being part of NATO’s political and economic order while trying to appear as the vanguard of Islamic revival in the Muslim world will not work.