Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is quite the rock star in east Jerusalem. There, as Bloomberg reports, “Muslim worshipers raise his picture at Friday prayers, restaurants display the Turkish flag on their walls…”
Mr Erdogan has done quite a bit for east Jerusalem. Building maintenance. Handouts to the poor. Honest indignation at the plight of the Palestinian people.
In fact, the Turkish president is one of the few Muslim leaders still publicly championing the Palestinian cause. In so doing, he puts ever so slightly in the shade, Saudi Arabia. Traditionally, it is patron of east Jerusalem but has been playing politics with the Trump administration on Palestinian rights.
Mr Erdogan is playing politics too and paying for the chance to do so. Turkey’s foreign aid agency’s 2015 annual report said more than 500 projects had been undertaken in the Palestinian territories and 81 in east Jerusalem. The price tag is nearly $30 million.
And then there is Mr Erdogan’s rhetoric, whose worth is practically incalculable in PR terms.
That said, Mr Erdogan’s ambitions are being beadily eyed by three Arab entities: the Saudis, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
The Saudis, of course, are jealous that Turkey might gain influence on turf they regard as theirs.
Jordan is worried Mr Erdogan may challenge its guardianship of the 8th-century Al Aqsa complex.
And the Palestinian Authority is not pleased with Turkey’s support for its rival, the Hamas militant group.
With the Palestinians, there are no easy wins.