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How Israel-Gaza Conflict Deepened Rift in NATO

Tensions already present between Turkey and the US have gotten worse due to the continuous conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This has caused a wedge between these NATO members and has an impact on the alliance as a whole.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, first struggled with the complexities of the situation before shifting to a more critical position toward Israel. The already tense relationship between Turkey and the US has been made worse by this change in stance.

Erdogan was first shocked by the violence Hamas was committing when the Israel-Gaza conflict broke out. In an attempt to mediate, he contacted Israeli President Isaac Herzog. But Erdogan's position soon shifted as a result of the Turkish public's strong support for Hamas, the intensification of Israeli military actions, and the commencement of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Over time, Erdogan's criticism of Israel grew more intense. By interacting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and other regional leaders, Erdogan aimed to act as a mediator. US President Joe Biden was conspicuously missing from these conversations, indicating tense dynamics between the two figures. There hasn't been much direct communication between the presidents of the United States and Turkey for a while, which has affected their bilateral relationship.

The Israel-Gaza confrontation takes place against the backdrop of the US and Turkey's already tense ties. Washington's backing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of fighters primarily made up of Kurds who were instrumental in the war against ISIS, is one of the main points of conflict. When a Turkish drone approached American forces in northern Syria, an American F-16 fighter jet shot it down, escalating the conflict.

The US is concerned that Turkey's military operations against Syrian Kurds could weaken the fight against ISIS. Ankara and its supporters have designated the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization, and Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish forces as a continuation of this group.

The dispute about this matter began in 2014 when Turkey declined to assist in the war against terrorist organizations, which prompted the US to work with the SDF. Erdogan further claimed that the Biden administration's wording in extending the state of emergency in northern Syria compromised regional peace and security, and he took issue at it.

Turkey's position on Sweden's NATO membership further muddies ties between the two countries. Erdogan connected the selling of new F-16s and upgrade equipment for already-existing aircraft to his endorsement of Sweden's entry. Congress resisted the Biden administration's backing for this request, further complicating the situation.

The war over Gaza has widened as a result of Erdogan's outrage over the American aircraft carrier strike groups' presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. He asserted that Turkey's attempts to resolve the problem were hampered by the carrier presence and that the US had no involvement in the fighting.

While Erdoğan intensifies his pro-Palestinian rhetoric, he continues to enable Israel’s oil imports at a time when the Turkish public is becoming increasingly vigilant about the economic impact of their choices. However, even then, Turkey did not close the pipeline, showcasing how economic interests can trump populist rhetoric.

Expect the gap between Turkey and the US widen though due to Erdogan's long-standing support for Hamas, which includes giving its leaders sanctuary and refusing to classify its activities as terrorism. Erdogan's encouragement of the Turkish public's response to the Gaza crisis is probably going to strengthen this relationship.


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