By Asad Mirza
Resetting diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel could lead to further paradigm shifts at the regional level in addition to helping the two focus more on bilateral economic gains.
Recently, there have been indications from both Israel and Turkey that the leaders of those countries are considering resetting their bilateral relations.
In the case of Israel, it was a further step towards regional rapprochement, while for Turkey, it was essentially a question of solving and promoting its economic problems and its regional interests.
The announcement by the two countries on August 17 of the exchange of ambassadors and the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations follows the readjustment of Turkish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It seems that Turkish leaders have realized that their priority should be to focus more on internal and closer issues such as the country’s economic difficulties, the Kurdish problem and its relations with Cyprus and Greece. Better regional relations will give him more time and energy to focus on solving the country’s economic problems and the expectations of the electorate.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated in 2018 when Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador from Ankara, following the murder of 60 Palestinians in Gaza during protests against former US President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the American Embassy in Tel Aviv in Jerusalem.
In fact, Turkish support for Palestinian groups, particularly Hamas, and its objection to Israeli annexation of territories in and around the Gaza Strip has been the bone of contention between the two.
The thaw in ties comes after more than 10 years of tension. A visit to Turkey by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March, followed by visits by foreign ministers from two countries, helped to warm relations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have realized the futility of Turkey’s hostile policies and stand against Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This position has made Turkey isolated in the region in addition to being economically unviable for it.
One of the fundamental reasons for Turkiye’s animosity against other so-called Islamic countries is the contest to claim the title of leader of the Islamic world. This has led Turkey to accuse the successive governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of being the main source of adopting positions against its claim to leadership of the Islamic world and making it a Pariah state in the region.
Historically, it was Turkey that maintained the two holiest shrines in the Muslim world in Saudi Arabia, before oil was discovered in the kingdom, which changed its fortunes forever. This new wealth led the Saudi monarchs to claim leadership of the Islamic world.
Turkey obviously tried to resist this change but the fall of the Ottoman Empire led it to modify its position on several issues related to the Muslim Ummah. Furthermore, Turkey blamed these governments and their policies as responsible for strengthening regional stability for their own selfish interests. In return, these states blamed Turkey for adopting such postures and policies, which led to friction in the region and among the so-called Islamic states.
In retaliation, these countries improved their relations with Cyprus and Greece, Turkey’s sworn enemies in the Mediterranean. While at the same time Turkey has improved its relations with Qatar, a country that was banned from the Gulf region in 2017 when the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a ban on it. economic blockade.
Moreover, before facing the electorate next year, Erdogan shook hands with Israel in the hope that he could change Turkey’s economic situation with an increase in economic exchanges with Israel, resulting in an improvement in the economic climate for Turkish citizens.
Israel’s Game Plan
Recently, Israel has sought to restore its ties with countries in the region, Arab and non-Arab. He sees Turkey as an important factor both regionally and in Gaza as well, given that Hamas has opened an office in Istanbul and has been operating from Turkey for 10 years. Moreover, Israeli authorities believe that closer ties with Turkey will allow it to effectively conduct intelligence surveillance of Iran.
Moreover, Israel believes that if it wants to sell its natural gas to Europe, which was found near its shores in 2010, then the most economically viable route will be through Turkey. It could be a win-win situation for the two if they are able to work out any future plans to cut off Russian gas supplies from Europe, both diplomatically and financially in the long term.
During the hostile period with Turkey, Israel had moved closer to both Cyprus and Greece. This led to an increase in economy, security, and people-to-people contact between them. Both countries have benefited from an influx of Israeli tourists, who have abandoned the Turkish coasts. Israel also initiated military cooperation with them and also trained Greek and Cypriot military forces.
Israel will now have to balance the potential geostrategic and economic benefits of cooperation with Turkey with Jerusalem’s well-developed ties with Athens and Nicosia. Israeli President Herzog, who has played a key role in the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, has assured Cyprus and Greece that Israel’s new found friendship with Turkey will not affect its existing relations with Cyprus and Turkey. Greece.
All in all, it can be assumed that the current situation points to a scenario where diplomatic, political and security relations could remain chilly, as the real goal for both countries is to boost their economic relations. Israel is also aware that Turkey can continue to play the Palestinian card to appease its internal audience.
Overall, this odd marriage of convenience might be able to counter other regional alliances and axes of power, and both would try to maximize their returns, independently or bilaterally, depending on the given situation.