Israel’s National Security Council has drafted a list of measures against the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), operating in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Hadashot TV reported.
Among the possible measures are imposing a general restriction on TIKA’s activities and demanding that the agency obtain individual permits for its projects. At the same time, Israeli intelligence officials are said to believe that TIKA had hosted members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and that some staff members had funneled funds and information to the Hamas movement.
According to the report, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric has fueled Tel Aviv’s suspicions of TIKA. This echoes a recent report by Haaretz, which suggested that the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, had warned Israel over Erdogan’s efforts to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue” by expanding Ankara’s influence in East Jerusalem.
Haaretz further reported that Turkish Islamic associations have increasingly been sponsoring programs and trips for thousands of local Palestinians and allegedly encouraged protests around the Temple Mount.
Riyadh is also said to be worried that Erdogan will use his influence in Jerusalem to emerge as the custodian of the Muslim sites in the city, thus cementing his growing authority over the Arab-Muslim world.
In April-May 2018, relations between Israel and Turkey hit a fresh low point after they expelled each other’s envoys amid an Erdogan-Netanyahu war of words over deadly clashes in Gaza and the US Embassy’s transfer to Jerusalem.
As the Palestinians’ Great March of Return turned violent, the Turkish president accused the Jewish state of “thuggery, violence and state terror,” and even compared Israel’s suppression of Palestinian protesters to the Nazi persecution of Jews. He then dismissed Prime Minister Netanyahu as “the PM of an apartheid state,” who “has the blood of Palestinians on his hands.”
Netanyahu struck back, saying, “A man who sends thousands of Turkish soldiers to hold the occupation of northern Cyprus and invades Syria will not preach to us.”
Prime Minister Erdogan had blasted the raid as a “bloody massacre” and “state terrorism,” demanding Tel Aviv apologize, pay compensation to the families of the deceased and lift the Gaza blockade.
In 2013, Netanyahu voiced regret over the incident to Erdogan, and in September 2016, Tel Aviv paid $20 million in compensation to the families of the victims as part of an agreement reached in August, which contributed to the normalization of bilateral relations after a six-year-long diplomatic crisis.