Hosted by Busra Nur Ozguler-Aktel, the latest episode of FeniksPod’s Middle East Series welcomed Louis Fishman, a faculty member at the City University of New York who specializes in Middle Eastern politics with a particular focus on Turkey and Israel.
Fishman evaluated Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Egypt and Israel as being born out of desperation following years of sour relations resultant of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign policy choices.
“I have been following the Justice and Development Party (AKP) for nearly 20 years, and we can see that Turkey really believed that the 2011-2012 so-called Arab Spring marked a regional change that could lead to the adoption of new Islamist regimes; especially with regard to Mohamed Morsi,” Fishman said.
According to Fishman, Turkey had already been making waves in the region before the Arab Spring, particularly in reference to the Mavi Marmara incident and “one minute” outburst, both of which granted Erdogan a certain degree of regional popularity.
“I think the problem started when Morsi came to power and Erdogan adopted him as a project. […] They completely misread the local politics of Egypt, and it led to a coup in 2013 that happened parallel to the Gezi Park protests in Turkey,” Fishman continued.
According to Fishman, Erdogan tried to portray that, similar to Morsi, the AKP was under attack from different forces. Fishman added that “Egypt has become a punching bag in Turkey’s domestic politics”.
Following the successful coup in Egypt led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, relations between Ankara and Cairo have come to a standstill.
Fishman observed that problematic Turkish-Egyptian relations are indicative of a larger problem within Turkish foreign policy in general.
“[There is] almost a schizophrenic type of situation in which Turkey constantly changes its foreign policy every couple of years,” Fishman said, adding that other countries found it difficult to invest time in developing long-term relations with Turkey due to the capricious nature of its policies, even toward the most sensitive topics in the region.
Fishman underlined that Turkey used its relations with Egypt and Israel for domestic political purposes, further undermining bilateral relations.
While relations between Cairo and Ankara are being revitalized, Israeli President Isaac Herzog will be visiting Turkey in March, a step that could work to normalize Turkish-Israeli relations.
Despite the outcome of the rapprochements, it is clear that Israel and Egypt would like to see Turkey avoid intervening in their affairs.
“Erdogan raises his voice about these countries’ actions during election times. But they (Egypt and Israel) look to Turkey to not interfere in their affairs at all,” Fishman said.
Commenting on the outcomes of the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, Fishman said that Israel is aware of Turkey’s limits.
“Israel knows that right now Turkey is … becoming unstable. I think that worries everyone including Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. They know that the Turkish opposition won Istanbul and Ankara, and we don’t know what will happen in 2023 [general and presidential elections],” Fishman said, adding that Turkey’s back-and-forth relations with the US and Russia further complicate matters.
“It is very hard for these countries to make long-term plans with Turkey,” Fishman said.