Turkey spent $65 mn to convince US Jews of ‘pro-Israel’ policies: opposition MP

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Turkey paid $65 million to lobbyists in 2008 to convince the US Jewish community of Ankara’s “pro-Israel policies,” a lawmaker from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed on Saturday.

Tweeting pictures of Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) documents dated 2008 from the US Department of Justice in response to Justice and Development Party (AKP) chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aide Fahrettin Altun’s swipe at CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for criticizing Erdoğan “while Jerusalem bled,” referring to the recent flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Aykut Erdoğdu demanded answers about $65 million spent to present Turkey as pro-Israel.

Erdoğan, who has been ruling Turkey for 18 years, presents himself as an ardent supporter of Palestine and a staunch opponent of Israel.

However, according to the FARA documents shared by Erdoğdu, the Erdoğan administration, represented by the Turkish Embassy in Washington, hired lobbyists in 2008 to prove that the Turkish government was a pro-Israeli and pro-Western actor.

The documents say the lobbying firms should hold events for the Jewish community to highlight Turkey’s pro-Israel and pro-Western policies.

“You have paid $65 million to lobbying firms in the US to prove you are pro-Israel. Now I ask, are these documents authentic? If so, do you not have any shame? You will see. He will play dead and not respond,” Erdoğdu tweeted, referring to Altun.

Erdoğan has vocally championed the Palestinian cause during his 18-year rule and repeatedly spoke out against Israel’s actions, accusing it of engaging in “terrorism” last week as surging violence has claimed the lives of 197 Palestinians and 10 people in Israel since May 10.

Turkish president’s sharp criticism contrasts with months of speculation that Turkey and Israel were looking for ways to normalize ties and re-appoint ambassadors to each other’s capitals.

Israel and Turkey exchanged ambassadors in 2016, after a five-year period following the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident during which the countries did not have full diplomatic ties.

The Mavi Marmara incident concerns the killing by Israeli commandoes in international waters of nine Turkish and one Turkish-American pro-Palestinian activists who were part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla heading to Gaza to deliver aid.

There has been no ambassador in either country since May 2018.

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