Israel-Turkey relations | The Times of Israel
Without a shift in Turkey's economic connections to Israel, Ankara's fiery than any other airline in the world and has remade Istanbul into a global city. The economic relationship aside, Mr Erdogan has made support of. I will discuss the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations within the context of the his letter by saying Israel wanted "peace with the entire Muslim World," and that he. The future of Turkish-Israeli relations is still uncertain, with many potential pitfalls. The world is paying scant attention to the “Old Middle East,” focusing instead.
Characterized by conflict among the secularist establishment, Islamists and Kurdish nationalists, Israel was always a domestic political issue. Third, relations with Israel gained a strategic value for the Turkish military establishment because of the Kurdish insurgency. In addition, because of Syrian support to the Kurdish insurgents, those who advocated a military solution to the Kurdish problem regarded Israel strategically.
The ascent to power of the Islamist Welfare Party in challenged the secular establishment's dominance in regional policy as Prime Minister Erbakan moved to strengthen Turkey's ties with the Muslim world.
The military pressured Erbakan to sign significant military agreements with Israel in order to demonstrate their power. As Erbakan already shared the government with the liberal center-right leader Tansu Ciller, this created a three-headed foreign policy.
Relations with the Muslim world were directed by Erbakan's team, relations with Israel were guarded by the military, and relations with Europe were managed by Ciller. This wasn't a happy division of labor, however, and shortly after signing a natural-gas deal with Iran, Erbakan was removed from power by the military-initiated February 28 process.
The military's dictates against Erbakan included a warning on relations with Iran, perceived by the generals as a threat to Turkish secularism. After the collapse of the government, a weak coalition was formed by Mesut Yilmaz, who owed his position to the military and thus delegated Middle East foreign-policy making to them. Thus, during the Erbakan-led coalition government that was in power between andthe military dictated several important agreements with Israel in order to humble the Islamist Erbakan before his constituency.
In an article he coedited, former General Cevik Bir, the deputy chief of the general staff during the February 28 process, gives some clues to the motivations behind the removal of Erbakan from power: The army made it clear to Erbakan that it would not sit idly by and watch Turkey turn toward Islam or allow Israeli-Turkish military relations to be jeopardized….
Erbakan was kept in check. Turkey and Israel concluded their most important military cooperation agreements during Erbakan's tenure, which ended in Junewhen the Islamist prime minister tendered his resignation under pressure from the MGK. This may have been due to Israeli support of the Iraqi Kurdish authority. While pro-Israeli opinions are occasionally expressed in the Turkish media, Israel is no longer part of the secularist-Islamist competition in Turkish politics today.
Furthermore, the Turkish military is unhappy with the military procurement agreements with Israel. According to Turkish defense-industry sources, "In many projects involving Israeli companies — including the modernization of Turkey's U. General Dynamics-made M60 A1 tanks and the joint production of countermeasure dispenser systems — Israel failed to honor its offset and technology-transfer commitments.
Historically, however, Turkish public opinion has not been anti-American. According to a January 23,poll by the Turkish research company Genar, more than two-thirds of Turks backed his stance. This was a good show of power in the wake of local elections scheduled to take place on March The AKP needed to counter the growing challenges from the Saadet party, now led by a younger and more dynamic leadership.
The party still needed to respond to criticism from conservative segments of the population that the pilots who bombed Gaza were trained in Turkey. A common Islamic language might be particularly useful for the AKP in connecting with the Kurdish ethnic community. In the meantime, the Turkish Higher Education Council has initiated preparations to start Kurdish language and literature programs at leading Turkish universities.
However, such steps are potentially divisive in the non-Kurdish community. The two sides need a common cause of solidarity that they can equally embrace. As the self-perceived grandchildren of Saladin, Kurds are thought to be particularly sensitive to the Palestinian question, and there have been several large demonstrations in Kurdish-majority cities, including Diyarbakir.
According to the Islamist newspaper Vakit, the Kurdish nationalist movement is attempting to take ownership of Saladin as a Kurdish nationalist leader and undermine his image as a Muslim commander. A superficial analysis of the domestic context of Turkish-Israeli relations might mistakenly conclude that the AKP is leading the anti-Israeli, or even anti-Semitic, mood in the country. The reality is that Turkish public opinion is even more critical of Israel than the government would prefer.
The Iraq War has created a deep anti-American mood that automatically includes Israel. All political parties and interest groups have to respond to public demands to appear tough on the issue. One can observe the level of anti-Israeli feeling among opposition members in parliamentary debates, particularly on the border-demining project mentioned above.
On that day, we did not fear America, but only God. Now I am saying, don't be scared of America or Israel, but be fearful of God; listen to your conscience. The news of the Israeli attack on the Istanbul-based ship Mavi Marmara as it was nearing Gaza, along with the killing of nine Turkish citizens, was received with the utmost shock in Turkey. For the first time, Turkish civilians became directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suffering casualties caused by Israeli forces.
The government withdrew its ambassador to Israel and canceled three joint military exercises planned foras well as a soccer match. The meeting caused an uproar in Israeli politics, as it was conducted without informing Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman. In the meeting, Davutoglu reiterated Turkey's demands for an independent investigation into the incident, the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, an Israeli apology and compensation to victims' families.
After an initial rejection, Israel accepted the UN probe of the incident, which will be the first of its kind in Israeli history. In addition, the blockade was eased considerably. The flotilla attack also resonated in Israeli domestic politics. The Kadima government's tough stance on Gaza in winter came in the context of the approaching Israeli general elections. Lieberman and Barak are believed to be in competition to shape Israeli foreign policy. Lieberman's tough talk and his deputy's undiplomatic behavior towards Turkey's ambassador are thought to reflect their own domestic calculations.
Based on Israeli foreign ministry sources, Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that Lieberman tried to foil Barak's scheduled visit to Ankara following renewed tensions between the two countries. He quotes a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying: Deprived of a strong Turkish-American diaspora, Turkey has depended on the support of Jewish-American groups to block the passage of Armenian-genocide resolutions in the U.
Cognizant of this fact, Turkish leaders have always sought good relations with Jewish-American organizations. This support, however, was contingent upon Turkey's having good relations with Israel. Now that Turkish-Israeli relations have entered a period of crisis, Jewish members of Congress have shown little interest in the case.
Turkish media refer to the "Jewish" chair of the committee, Howard Berman, who stated in his opening remarks that it was now time to recognize the Armenian genocide. Unlike Turkey's European allies, the United States shied away from a strong condemnation of the incident.
Turgut Ozal, who held power between andsought a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue and normalized ties with the Arab world. However, his accession to the presidency and later his death in created a leadership vacuum on the liberal center right, allowing the return of the military as a significant force in domestic and international politics.
Turkey moved closer to a military solution for handling the Kurdish problem. The military saw Israel as a source of technology and a counterbalance to Syria, which supported the PKK.
Many observers were keen to regard the relationship as a strategic alliance or a new axis,42 and several graduate students wrote their theses on it.
Soon afterward, high-level military contacts and agreements ensued. Israeli counterparts of these civilian and military leaders reciprocated with visits to Ankara. During these contacts, several important military agreements were signed. Syria's deportation of Ocalan and its closure of PKK camps in Syria and then in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley changed these strategic calculations. In November11 days after the Syrian expulsion of Ocalan, the two countries signed the historic Adana Agreement, according to which Syria declared an end to its support for the PKK.
In response, Syria was removed from the Turkish military's threat list. In an article written informer Turkish Chief of Staff General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, in deviation from classical military discourse, avoided direct reference to any state as an external threat, instead focusing on two internal threats.
He described the military as a "force primarily used against external and internal threats to Turkey's territorial integrity and the republican regime. Signifying the change in relationship, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who came from within the Kemalist bureaucratic establishment, attended the funeral of Hafez al-Asad in The improvement in Turkish-Syrian relations was further strengthened when Bashar al-Asad, who favored close relations with Turkey, emerged victorious in the ensuing Syrian power struggle.
In the absence of Syrian support, the PKK camps were relocated to northern Iraq, where they benefited from the no-fly zone that was effectively outside Baghdad's military control.
They then became subject to constant cross-border operations by the Turkish air force, creating tension between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish parties as well as indirectly with the United States, which was caught in between its ally Turkey and its important new Kurdish allies.
The attacks of September 11,and the AKP's ascent to power with a massive parliamentary majority were two other important events. September 11 prepared the American public for an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, but the new Turkish leadership was not particularly supportive.Top 10 Countries that Hate Turkey
The Iraq War of added to this new strategic context two distinct outcomes that had repercussions on Turkish-Israeli relations: The Turkish parliament's refusal to allow the passage of U.
Boosted by this new strategic environment, the PKK announced in that it was ending its five-year unilateral ceasefire and would resume its insurgency. According to independent observers, Turkish civilian and military leaders were disappointed to see Israel give military support to an Iraqi Kurdish administration that then allegedly passed it on to PKK militants.
Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state….
The Turks note that the large Israeli intelligence operations in Northern Iraq incorporate anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian activity, including support to Iranian and Syrian Kurds who are in opposition to their respective governments. However, the highest level of confirmation came with a PKK rocket attack on Turkey's Iskenderun naval base that killed seven sailors.
The attack came hours before the Israeli storming of the peace flotilla, which was due to reach Gaza just after midnight on May 31, On May 10,Turkey, for the first time since the Ottoman era, had commissioned a naval fleet TDGG to operate independently in the Mediterranean Sea, directly challenging Israeli supremacy.
The Crisis in Turkish-Israeli Relations: What is its Strategic Significance?
The PKK's attack on a strategic Turkish installation was the most daring in the organization's history. In this context, Turkey found itself in need of security cooperation with Iran and Syria rather than with Israel and the United States in the struggle against terrorism.
This was a complete reversal of the security context of the s, when Turkey was Israel's strategic ally to defend against the strategic alliance between Iran and Syria, which was supporting the PKK.
The military adjusted to these changes by abandoning its two-and-a—half-wars strategy. The Turkish military now aims to prepare itself for the ongoing battle against the PKK insurgency and one full-scale war with a state. Syria's status in Turkish strategic calculations has been elevated from threat to strategic ally.
Despite its security cooperation with Iran, however, Turkey is deeply concerned about the increasing power of the Islamic Republic. In addition, the war demonstrated that Iran, too, might be in the target range, even without provocation.
Thus, the Iraq War provoked Iran to increase its military deterrence by seeking a nuclear deterrent. For Turkey, this means that the traditional balance of power in the region, in place since the Qasr-i Shirin agreement ofhas been tilted in Iran's favor.
Even though Turkey does not consider Iran an existential threat, it risks being reduced to a secondary power, isolated from Middle East affairs. Turkey prefers to deal with this challenge by diplomacy and active engagement, countering Iran's growing power in the region by trying to sway Arab public opinion to its side.
Turkish policy makers appear to believe that it cannot do this successfully without becoming active in the most pressing issue for Arab public opinion, the Israeli-Palestinian question. One reason Turkey cannot confront Iran as a member of the Western alliance system is related to Iran's growing importance for Turkey as a source of natural gas and a market for Turkey's increasingly assertive export sector.
With its recent economic development, Turkey is now the seventh-largest economy in Europe and the fifteenth largest economy in the world.
It has a young and dynamic population approaching 80 million. Its largest trading partner is no longer Germany, the country that had been in this position since the late Ottoman era, but Russia, which provides 68 percent of Turkey's natural gas.
The complex, and often toxic, Israel-Turkey relationship - Israel News - Jerusalem Post
An exclusive Turkish-Israeli security alliance would no longer work in the context of Turkish economic empowerment and diverse trade interests. Turkey's growing natural-gas imports from Russia and Iran contributed to its negative balance of trade, which it has to correct by increasing its exports to them.
Clearly, trade relations with Russia and Iran, which will double in the next two decades, are much more strategic. In short, the geostrategic changes that followed the end of the Cold War and then the Iraq War generated powerful influences over Turkish foreign policy, making it difficult for Turkey to maintain its one-dimensional Western orientation. One final note on the international context of the impact of globalization on Turkish foreign policy: In the age of globalization, foreign policy is no longer the monopoly of the state, as occasionally non-state actors force states to implement decisions they would otherwise avoid.
The flotilla incident shows that this is the case for Turkey. Globalization has altered the sociopolitical landscape, allowing the periphery of society to ignore the center and achieve social mobilization simply by connection with the world. Furthermore, visits by the respective defense ministers in are noteworthy. These webs of mutual visits and the lack of them sincecoupled with a decrease in Israeli tourists to Turkey fromin toin ,11 are a function of the downgrading of relations.
One might label this drop in Israeli tourists an unofficial boycott, rising perhaps from fear or protesting Turkish policies toward Israel. Despite the cooling of the relationship, trade between the two countries has risen. In Maythe "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" sailed toward the Gaza Strip to break the embargo imposed by Israel and bring humanitarian assistance to the Gazans.
In total, there were eight ships, but one had mechanical difficulties and another was late. Nine Turks died and numerous activists and Israeli soldiers were injured. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations called the interception of the flotilla "unlawful," labeling its actions crimes, including willful killing and torture, and charging Israel with the use of excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate force. In fact, there were five Israeli citizens, including member of the Knesset Haneen Zouabi and Sheikh Raed Saleh from the Islamist movement in Israel, who were also interrogated by the Israeli authorities.
Having said that, however, the fact that there were no firearms on the ship and no threat to the Israeli soldiers13 makes the Israeli reactions to the Mavi Marmara unreasonable.
In retrospect, both governments mishandled the crisis: Both countries have lost from this fiasco. Israeli leaders claimed that they perceived the activists on the Mavi Marmara to be government-supported, violent, armed Islamist militants. On the other hand, labeling and perceiving them to be terrorists made the defense of Israel essential — hence the harsh reaction. It was also striking that the order to attack was given by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.
He was the sympathetic prime minister during the devastating earthquake in Turkey in who personally visited Turkey to open the Israel-Turkey village built for the victims of the earthquake. However, the IHH's dispatching of the ships and the subsequent killings have destroyed relations for a long time to come. The report found that the flotilla acted recklessly in trying to breach the naval blockade, and although the flotilla participants had "no violent intentions, there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objective of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH.
Despite the fact that there was violent resistance from Mavi Marmara, the "loss of life was unacceptable. However, it concluded that there was no proof any of the deceased possessed firearms,29 and that the loss of life was unacceptable. He said he had killed a "terrorist" who was about to shoot at another soldier. Columnist Amos Harel argued that the incident was a failure for the Israeli government, as Israel's Gaza policy was reversed and its relations with Turkey were damaged.
Standing in front of the building, IHH chairman Bulent Yildirim said the case was not against the Jewish nation, but against Zionists and murderers. He added that, if Jews had lived in Gaza and faced similar persecution by Muslims, they would have tried to break the siege, too.
He also questioned Israel's right to exist on occupied Palestinian territory. While the Turkish foreign ministry said it was not a party to the trial, this process is bound to negatively affect Turkish-Israeli relations for some time to come.
He referred to the "spirit of Sarajevo," emphasizing centuries of coexistence among Jews, Christians and Muslims, and Serbs, Croats and Bosnians — adding that he considered Sarejevo the Jerusalem of the Balkans. There were also cities transformed by numerous civilizations such as Istanbul,43 referring to its Byzantine and Ottoman past.
He also presented Turkey as the protector of underdogs, such as the Palestinians, and noted the example of an African president, without naming him, who had requested Turkey's intercession to be represented at a G meeting. There is nostalgia for the Ottoman past, though this worldview does not entail an expansionist foreign policy for Turkey. Nationalism is very weak among JDP cadres. A highly sympathetic journalist who has also written his biography characterizes the JDP not as Islamist but "aiming to balance between different worlds.
This policy was made possible by the rise of a conservative Anatolian bourgeoisie whose economic liberalism formed the backbone of the JDP,47 starting with its companies, subsidies to media outlets and promotion of schools. From the s and s, there was a sense among Turks that Turkish and Muslim peoples in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire were discriminated against by the West. The "Bosnian genocide" and rejection by the EU were the catalysts for this neo-Ottoman identity,48 later shared and built upon by the JDP cadres.
Consequently, Turkish foreign policy became more sensitive to the demands of the masses, which have always been skeptical about relations with Israel. Of course, it is unclear how much Islam and Islamism as an ideology are shaping Turkish foreign policy, as opposed to national interests.
There is definitely an emphasis by policy makers on the OIC, and a perception in the Middle East that Turkey is aligning with the Sunnis against the Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere. Only after EU-Turkish relations reached a dead end did he seek closer relations with the Middle East, though there was some emphasis on this in the early days of the JDP government. Initially there was a tactful discourse towards Israel, and members of the government visited Jewish organizations in all their trips to the United States.
However, there is an increase in public expressions of anti-Semitism as a consequence of the ongoing crisis and the feeling that Israel is an enemy of Turkey. The current debate in Turkey revolves around Islamic, Ottoman, Turkish and regional identities among Turks, Kurds, Albanians, Arabs, Azeris, Armenians, Greeks and Jews based on the common "Ottoman experience they have shared and built together. Turkey's increased engagement with the Islamic world was demonstrated when it gained observer status in the Arab League.
He affirmed the two-state formula and called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the independent Palestinian state. Having said this, however, pro-Arab policies are not entirely new, and pro-Palestinian sympathies are not confined to Islamists and conservatives. The secular prime minister Bulent Ecevit called Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Jenin in genocide. On the other hand, Turkey recognized the Jewish state one year after its declaration of independence and has never totally cut off diplomatic relations or questioned Israel's right to exist.
While the JDP was in favor of "civilizational dialogue" between Muslim and Western peoples, it did not shy away from criticizing the Islamic world as well.
He did not present himself as a secular person, but rather as a Muslim who was the prime minister of a secular country. He also noted, "unfortunately Turkey recognized Israel in Even though the first EU-OIC summit meeting was held in February under the tenure of Ismail Cem, the late foreign minister of the Democratic Left Party, the JDP continued these summits, perceiving them to be commensurate with their promotion of dialogue between cultures and civilizations.
By moving away from the Islamist discourse, they opened up new spaces to play the political game domestically and internationally; they shielded themselves from criticism by secularists — including the bureaucracy and intellectuals — that they were an anti-secular movement by making the domestic reforms needed for EU accession.
Furthermore, they made a de facto alliance with the liberal intellectuals in the press and academia, who supported the government's policies of democratization and the softening of Kemalism. Consequently, the new Spanish prime minister proposed the "Alliance of Civilizations between the Western and the Arab and Muslim World" to the UN secretary general during a speech at the General Assembly on September 21,and invited Turkey to become a cosponsor.
In fact, Kofi Annan was adamant that a Muslim country should take such a role. It should be remembered that Turkey's participation in the OIC before the JDP government was rather restricted, due to the fact that it wanted to preserve a neutral position in the inter-Arab conflict, as well as between Arabs and Israelis.
While there is sympathy in the Arab world for Turkey as a result of the pro-Arab policies of the JDP and an interest in Turkish soap operas and tourist sites, there is no desire for Turkish leadership of the Arab world.
But Turkey's observer status in the Arab League could never have been envisaged under a more secular government, in which European direction and identity were paramount. It should, of course, be emphasized that it was the EU that pushed Turkey away. After years of waiting for membership in the EU, Turkey's people and its leaders felt cheated and moved towards the East. Increased trade also played a role. At the domestic level, the JDP successfully devised a conservative populist narrative, promoting itself as the protector of the people against the elite.
They mobilized groups within the center right, in addition to former Islamists and idealists one-time sympathizers of the Nationalist Action Party in their antipathy towards the military and its privileges. The latest JDP convention featured the articulation of center-right as well as Islamist themes.
It is still too early to make a final judgment on this convention, but there were elements of Islamism in its style and rhetoric. One upshot of this shift is that Israel is no longer perceived to be paramount for Turkey's interests.