by Tariq Al-Homayed
Erdogan does not hesitate to achieve economic gains through Israeli tourists that could be called as “boycott brokerage.”
Turkey is very keen on capitalizing of what I call “brokerage of boycott,” whereby Ankara and its agents in the region abuse and criticize anyone who talks about making visits to Jerusalem or entering into any commercial deals with Israel. Their criticism becomes more evident in case of countries that have peace treaties with Israel such as Egypt and Jordan, while Turkey cashes in on the boycott, especially in terms of passenger transport and tourism.
Turkey takes advantage of the Saudi airspace ban on Israeli aircraft and provides its airlines with an opportunity to transport Israeli travelers to Asia and vice versa. This act of Turkey does not find any coverage in the media, which claims to champion the Jerusalem cause. However, if some countries, Egypt for example, which shares borders with Israel, makes any gas agreement with the latter, it will become a breaking news, and will be broadcast continuously by Al-Jazeera and all other Brotherhood media outlets.
If we examine, we can see that there was a huge inflow of Israeli tourists to Turkey in the year 2019. Covering on the issue, the Israeli Globes website published a story on Oct. 15 2019 with the following title: “The Israelis are flocking to Turkey in record numbers.” The website added that the Turkish Airlines transported more than 850,000 passengers to Tel Aviv this year. The story also mentioned that 480,000 of these tourists stayed in hotels in Antalya, a port in southern Turkey. From January to August 2019 alone, 378,000 Israeli tourists visited Turkey.
On an average, there are 50,000 Turks visiting Jerusalem annually, and the numbers increased following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. This was highlighted by Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah in its report as it said: “Jerusalem has witnessed a growing interest among Turkish visitors, especially after the controversial US decision to move its embassy to the city, as they want to show solidarity with the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem!”
In February 2019, Anatolia news agency quoted Mariam Kaya, the representative of the Jerusalem Outreach Association, as saying: “Israel should implement a standard in airports in order not to restrict the freedom of travel for Turks.” Commenting on the visa issue, she said that Turkish tourists want to visit at least twice a year. This is rejected by Israel.
Even worse is what is there on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website: “Holders of ordinary and general Israeli passports are exempt from the 90-day travel visa.” While the Israeli Foreign Ministry website says: “Turkish citizens need a visa to travel to Israel as a tourist. The length of stay is usually 90 days and the visa expires in 90 days. The applicant must be present when applying for a visa with a total of seven documents required!”
The Turkish Airlines alone operates 10 Istanbul-Tel Aviv flights. Despite the Turkish claim that the Israeli visit is meant to “instill awareness of the importance of Jerusalem,” the Turkish Airlines describes Tel Aviv on its website as the following: “Tel Aviv maintains its traditional nature, despite being a modern and dynamic city.” The website adds that the Tel Aviv kitchen is “wonderful and delicious”, and “its dishes are a mixture of culinary traditions in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Levant!”
It is obvious from all these that Turkey wants to make the most of its ties with Israel but at the same time it is not ready to tolerate other countries, including those which have bilateral treaties with Israel, to have any relations with Israel. Moreover, it also tries to cash in on the “brokerage of boycott.”
Contrary to the recent remarks made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman with regard to Jerusalem, the figures and facts showed that Erdogan does not hesitate to achieve economic gains through Israeli tourists that could be called as “boycott brokerage.” Netanyahu is right when he says he may be “the only Israeli who does not travel to Turkey.” What would be the case if Egypt, Jordan or any Gulf country did what Erdogan does?
Here, Erdogan cannot be blamed alone, but the blame is to be on all those who did not reveal these facts, and repeated false claims so as to allow the new Ottoman and the Brotherhood, as well as their Qatari supporter and promoter to exploit the Palestinian cause and play with people’s sentiments in a wrong manner.
Tariq Al-Homayed is columnist In Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London.