Israeli daily Haaretz alleges the three Arab states have warned Israel of creeping Turkish influence in East Jerusalem.
The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem” which they said was “part of an attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue”.
Israeli sources claimed to have been aware of Turkey’s expanding influence and say they have been monitoring Ankara’s efforts for more than a year.
According to the report, Jordanian officials are said to have been upset with Israel‘s slow response which they described as “sleeping at the wheel”, especially since the signing of a 2016 reconciliation agreement which Israel is adamant to maintain.
Officials from the Palestinian Authority also expressed concern at Turkey’s drive to further its influence in occupied East Jerusalem which comes in the form of donations to Islamic organisations in Arab neighbourhoods or through organised tours by Turkish Muslim groups with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Israeli defence officials told the Israeli daily that the phenomenon had reached its peak in 2017 with hundreds of Turkish nationals establishing “a regular presence in and around the city” and increasingly clashing with police forces during Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“They’re trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” an unnamed police source is quoted as saying.
“It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for occupied East Jerusalem.”
Jordan’s concerns stem from the fact that Turkey’s efforts to widen its influence risk compromising the Hashemite Kingdom’s position as the custodian of Islam’s third holiest site.
Saudi Arabia for its part is worried that Erdogan’s ambitions in Jerusalem may help boost his image in the Arab and wider Muslim world which would, in effect, present him “as the only leader truly standing up to Israel and the Trump administration”.