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Erdogan Seeks to Rally Support for Palestinians

By Dorian Jones May 19, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to rally opposition to Israel and the United States, calling for a mass rally in Istanbul in support of Palestinians as leaders of the Islamic world gathered for a summit.

Addressing a crowd of tens of thousands, Erdogan attacked Israel, the United States and Muslim leaders for the situation facing Palestinians.

The Turkish president drew parallels with the battle to "liberate Jerusalem" with Turkey's World War I victory at Gallipoli against western powers.

"Victims of the Holocaust are unbelievably causing another holocaust, against another people," Erdogan said attacking Israel, describing it as a "tyrannical power."

Following Monday's killing of over 50 Palestinians by Israeli security forces, Turkish and Israeli leaders have engaged through social media in a series of increasingly bitter exchanges.

"Brutal dictator," Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted Tuesday.

"Turkey is the country targeted most by Israel and as a leader, I am the one targeted most by Israel, I am not in the wrong place," Erdogan said in response. This week Ankara asked the Israeli ambassador to leave the country, after recalling the Turkish ambassador in protest at Monday's killings.

Full diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel had only been restored in 2016 after years of negotiations following the killing of 10 Turkish activists by Israel security forces

Erdogan also attacked the United States over its decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. "The United States does nothing more than create problems," Erdogan said, rejecting Washington's role as mediator between Israel and Palestine.

Ankara has declared a diplomatic priority to stop other countries relocating their embassies to Jerusalem. The latest attacks come as relations between the NATO allies are already severely strained.

Erdogan also targeted Muslim leaders.

"The Islamic world failed Jerusalem," he said, "Muslim leaders are very good at fighting one another but are shy when fighting enemies of Islam."

Erdogan's attack on Muslim leaders came as representatives from 40 Islamic countries gathered in Istanbul.

The emergency summit, called by the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, which Turkey currently leads, discussed steps needed in response to Israel following Monday's killings of Palestinians. Also discussed was the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem.

But Ankara's diplomatic efforts are hampered by ongoing divisions with key players in the region.

"There are deep divisions between Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there is deep distrust towards Ankara because of its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas," political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor website.

Addressing an opening meeting of the OIC summit, Turkish foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu chided unnamed Muslim countries for not taking a tougher stance against Israel, a comment widely seen as aimed at Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Friday gathering is widely seen as being more symbolic than offering any coherent strategy against Israel and Washington.

But President Erdogan's aggressive stance towards Israel and Washington could also have a domestic agenda.

Erdogan is seeking re-election in June in what is becoming an increasingly tight race. A key constituent of Erdogan's voting base is conservative Muslims, which for the first time, have competitive alternatives in presidential and general elections due to be held on June 24th.

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