Turkish-Israeli relations. Why has a new chapter started now? | opinions

As 2022 dawned, there was a spark of friendly exchange of messages between Turkey and Israel, suggesting that there was a serious initiative by both sides to open a new page in their relations. welcome.

stagnant stagnation; This has been the state of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv since the “Mavi Marmara” events in 2010, and the two sides tried to restore relations in 2013, but this did not happen as a result of Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2014. , and in 2015 the two sides returned to try to improve relations, and Tel Aviv was named. As ambassador to Ankara, Ankara hesitated to appoint the ambassador until it saw an improvement in Israel against the Palestinians.

The perception that the United States is losing interest in the Middle East, as the power struggle with China and Russia intensifies; It pushes the countries of the region to improve their relations with all their neighbours. In this regard, the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January 2021 can be said to have accelerated the diplomatic movement in the region.

It didn’t take long, until Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador in 2018; to protest the disproportionate use of force by Israel during the demonstrations that erupted in Gaza after the opening ceremony of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; Tel Aviv also expelled the Turkish consul.

Recently, the dialogue between the two parties on improving relations has accelerated, accompanied by the question: “Why now?”

Is it a choice or a necessity?

Turkey’s diplomatic initiatives to restore relations with countries in the region – including Israel – have gained momentum over the past year, and developments on the international scene can be said to have gained momentum; The Biden administration, with a liberal, cooperative and conciliatory orientation, in particular the power grab in Washington, was the catalyst for this change in Turkish foreign policy, albeit belatedly, and this trend is expected to continue in the medium term.

The new balances forming in the Middle East provide fertile ground for efforts to advance dialogue between the two parties. The perception that the United States is losing interest in the Middle East, as the power struggle with China and Russia intensifies; It pushes the countries of the region to improve their relations with all their neighbours. In this regard, the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January 2021 can be said to have accelerated the diplomatic movement in the region; Because the Biden administration advocates for relative stability and order in the Middle East, it focuses its foreign policy attention and resources on competing with and controlling China and, to a lesser extent, Russia.

In this context, while the Biden administration has supported the “Abraham” normalization agreements, which were signed in 2020 with the aim of normalizing relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel (which were later joined by Bahrain, the Sudan and Morocco) on the one hand, he returns to relaunch nuclear negotiations with Iran on the other. Negotiations continue with Iran to return to the agreement, but on the other hand, Iran is close to being able to produce nuclear weapons in terms of enriched uranium capacity, and therefore the possibility that Iran possessing a sophisticated weapon is another factor pushing countries in the region to cooperate on security issues, followed by Iran’s absolute openness to the energy market; Washington sees it as an alternative to Russian energy after the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia due to the latter’s aggression against Ukraine.

On the other hand, the fact that the Assad regime remains in power in Syria with the support of Russia and Iran after 11 years of crisis is another development that pushes the countries of the region to act realistically. to reposition itself against the potential growth of Iranian influence. . In the same context, it is read that the United States of America has exempted the agreement which provides for the delivery of Egyptian gas from Syria and electricity from Jordan to Lebanon, from the sanctions imposed on it under the “Caesar law” and that they got the green light to reactivate the agreement again; This is another indication of Washington’s tendency to replace the overlapping institutional economic cooperation equation between allies and adversaries in a way that brings one equation closer to the 2011 equation. countries – not just Ankara and Tel Aviv – to redraw the map features their diplomatic relations on the map.

In the process of current changes, and in the context of realism, Ankara and Tel Aviv have tended to consider common interests that drive them to cooperate and take care of their common interests in the form of a “marriage of convenience facing the axes that are currently forming in the region.

The common security and economic interests encourage the two parties to come together in the face of the evolution of balances and the uncertainty of the current equation of the Middle East region.

Moreover, the fact that the Biden administration took a fairer and more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue than its predecessor has provided Turkey with fertile ground to mend its relationship with Israel. Similarly, the March 2021 general elections in Israel ended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule, resulting in a more moderate coalition government than the Netanyahu government had been. In addition to all this, in the light of the escalating economic crisis inside Turkey, there is a situation that is forced to repair relations with the countries of the region, the Emirates, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Consequently, Ankara is obliged to improve its relations with the countries of the region, according to the requirements of the international equation, regional balances and its internal interests.

The nature of the new path

There is no doubt that both sides have expectations for the normalization of bilateral relations. For Turkey, a healthy re-establishment of diplomatic dialogue with Israel will first and foremost reduce the country’s regional isolation and increase its ability to maneuver its foreign policy. In a broader perspective, Ankara aims to regain the influence it has lost to its regional rivals – Greece and Egypt – in the Mediterranean basin in particular.

In this regard, objectives such as the redrawing of maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean and the revision of international agreements with the Libyan government of consensus have not been and will not be abandoned. Nor does it appear that Israel is willing to sacrifice its new allies in the region in return for improved relations with Turkey.

The US State Department’s decision to stop supporting the EastMed pipeline project, which aims to deliver Israeli gas to Europe via Turkey, has provided a golden geo-economic opportunity in the interest of Ankara, which has given the need to assess it through a rapprochement with Tel Aviv. . Tel-Aviv was aware that it was difficult to extend the line without solving the Cyprus problem; Thus, cooperation between the two countries could facilitate the realization of alternative projects that would reduce Turkey’s gas needs and Europe’s dependence on Russia in the energy field.

Over the past decade, the geostrategic landscape of the Middle East has changed dramatically, particularly following the Abraham Accord, which also changed the power dynamics in Turkish-Israeli relations to some extent by favor of Israel. However, Turkey and Israel have broad interests in establishing a system based on security and stability in the Middle East.

Measures to restore relations between the two sides will pave the way for Turkey to join the US-backed security axis in the eastern Mediterranean in the medium term, and here Ankara will enjoy the support of Western countries, in particular the United States and United States. Kingdom.

The possibility of developing cooperation

Turkey and Israel will benefit from the development of cooperation in many areas such as trade, intelligence sharing, energy and defense cooperation. In fact, the two countries have managed to fragment their relationship over the past 10 years, and thus the volume of bilateral trade has continued to grow despite political crises, with trade rates between Israel and Turkey rising to $6 billion, according to the Israeli Chamber of Commerce. Trade.

As for Turkey, Ankara may be waiting for support from pro-Israel “lobbies” in Washington to suppress the anti-Turkish mood in Congress, as in previous years. It should be added here that the development of balanced relations with Israel enables Turkey to play a constructive and active role in the Palestinian question as a mediator rather than as an adversary of Israel.

The Abraham Accord may have weakened Turkey’s role as a provider of dialogue between Israel and the Arab world, and its privileged position. However, its predominantly Muslim population and NATO membership, as well as its geopolitical situation; They will make Turkey an important ally in the eyes of Israel. This explains why Israel has always kept the avenues of dialogue open, even though relations are at an all-time low, and responded similarly to recent moderate messages from Ankara, despite various reservations.

However, the Israeli side also seems aware of the limits of the cooperation that must be developed between the two countries as long as Ankara does not abandon its approach in favor of the rights of the Palestinian people and the course of its political relations with the Palestinian Movement of Hamas.

In this regard, some relative measures will be taken to restrict Hamas activity in Turkey, with the aim of accelerating the process of improving relations, but this will not be accompanied by a complete break between Ankara and Hamas. .

Conclusion: Real progress in the reconciliation process depends on harmonizing the interests of both parties by meeting on common ground. The development of cooperation on the basis of common interests will make bilateral relations relatively resistant to crises, which will open the door to concrete strategic cooperation in the Mediterranean basin in particular.

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