Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot harbor Hamas terrorists and try to forge closer ties with Israel, a senior diplomatic source said Sunday.
“I don’t really believe he’s being honest,” the source said. “We need to see actions.”
The comments came after Erdogan on Friday told reporters Turkey “would have liked to bring our ties [with Israel] to a better point.”
“If there were no issues at the top level [in Israel], our ties could have been very different,” Erdogan said, apparently blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the strained relations between the countries.
Israel’s “Palestine policy is our red line… [Israel’s] merciless acts are unacceptable,” he said.
Erdogan “has a system” by which he tries to bolster economic ties between Israel and Turkey while supporting Islamist extremists who attack Israel, the senior diplomatic source said.
“He can’t have it both ways,” the source said. “You can’t strengthen relations with Israel and be the place in which Hamas operatives feel most comfortable.”
The Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Erdogan’s remarks.
The US has condemned Turkey twice in the past year for harboring senior Hamas terrorists.
After establishing ties in 1949, Turkey and Israel were allies for decades. But those relations have frayed in recent years.
Erdogan’s party, AKP, has repeatedly compared Israel to Nazi Germany and condemns Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and treatment of the Palestinians, despite its own illegal occupation of northern Syria and persecution of the Kurds.
In recent months, Turkey criticized the Abraham Accords, which led to Israel establishing diplomatic relations with four Arab countries.
Turkey under Erdogan has close ties with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, which make up a different axis in the Middle East than that of Israel’s new diplomatic partners, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as Saudi Arabia, and supports a different side in the Libyan civil war than the UAE.
Turkey has also raised tensions with Cyprus and Greece, claiming large swaths of the Mediterranean as its own and sending ships to areas where EU countries conduct gas exploration.
The Foreign Ministry denied reports that Erdogan had appointed a new ambassador to Israel. Al-Monitor, a Washington-based website that covers the Middle East, had reported that Ankara chose Ufuk Ulutas for the job. Ulutas is a Hebrew University of Jerusalem alumnus who has called Zionism racist and has accused Israel of committing massacres.
Seth Frantzman and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.