Another West Bank intifada on the horizon

The two countries, once close regional allies Israel and Turkey, are restoring full diplomatic relations after a four-year thaw in relations. After more than a decade of animosity, trips by foreign ministers and Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey in March helped improve relations. After years of conflict, both sides will again appoint ambassadors. The restoration of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv has been hailed by officials in both countries as an important step. It was the result of long discussions. When Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited Ankara in June, the foreign ministers of both countries reaffirmed their intention to reappoint their ambassadors. The appointment of ambassadors, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, was “one of the steps in the normalization of relations”, he told reporters in Ankara. According to him, Israel took “such a positive decision, and as a result of these efforts, and as Turkey, we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv.” In addition to increasing regional stability, improved relations will help strengthen ties between the two peoples and expand economic, trade and cultural ties.

Following a call between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on August 17, the statement was made. According to separate readings from the two sides, Erdogan said the necessary steps to appoint the ambassador will be taken as soon as possible, and Lapid said developing ties will lead to successes in trade and tourism.

History of Israeli-Turkish relations:

After a deadly 2010 confrontation between Israeli commandos and Turkish militants on a passenger ship trying to evade an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian coastal territory controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, Turkey once Israel’s closest ally in the Muslim world and an important trading partner, severed diplomatic ties with Israel. When Israeli Navy commandos abseiled onto the deck of the ship, the Mavi Marmara, carrying aid to Gaza, they were met with violent resistance and killed nine protesters. A tenth activist later succumbed to his injuries. Turkish-Israeli relations have had their ups and downs recently, despite the restoration of some kind of diplomatic relations. In 2016, when Israel agreed to contribute about $20 million to a fund to compensate relatives of those killed on the Mavi Marmara, the two nations resumed full diplomatic relations.

The Israeli officers involved in the altercation were no longer prosecuted by Turkey after the charges were dropped. Israel has also called on the Turkish government to end any attacks planned against it by Hamas operatives based there. However, this thaw was brief. With President Donald J. Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel in late 2017, things got worse.

On numerous occasions, Erdogan has championed the Palestinian cause and strongly criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. After Israeli troops killed 60 Palestinian protesters in clashes along the Gaza border fence in May 2018, the day the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he compared Israel to the Nazi Germany and accused the Israelis of genocide. Turkey ordered Israel’s ambassador to leave the country following border clashes and killings, and Tel Aviv recalled the Turkish envoy “for discussions”. After a few hours, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it had summoned the Turkish consul general to Jerusalem and advised him to leave Israel “for a while” and return to his homeland. High-level diplomatic representation was absent for just over four years.

Despite recent political tensions, trade had continued and Israeli tourists continued to flock to Turkey. Israel issued a warning to its residents in June to return home, citing an Iranian murder attempt against Israeli citizens in Istanbul. Lapid then expressed his gratitude to Ankara for working with him on the issue, and the Israelis quickly resumed their vacation in Turkey.

Meaning of the links for both states:

Analysts said economic and security concerns were at stake in reviving relations between the two nations. The presidential election will take place in a year in Turkey. Ankara wants to attract investment from neighboring countries, but with inflation reaching over 70%. Moreover, Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean region have security problems. In a region where Iran poses a threat, Turkey views Israel as a powerful player, and Israel views Turkey as a stabilizing force.

Turkey could greatly benefit from closer ties with Israel. Already, business ties are developing. With record two-way trade of $8.4 billion last year, an increase of 35%, Turkey sees a chance to advance its commercial interests. As the United States leaves the region, Ankara has the chance to win over a regional player and get rid of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Although they haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2018, other diplomatic channels have been effective.

Israeli leaders are convinced that Turkey is an objective actor that acts in accordance with its interests rather than ideological views following a year of covert intelligence cooperation between Israel and Turkey. Ankara is of the view that certain operations, such as the failed attempts on the lives of Israelis in Turkey and other parts of the region, have provided demonstrable proof that it was able to provide and had the means of meeting its own security requirements without foreign aid. assistance.

According to experts, during the events that took place first in Nogorno-Karabakh in 2020 and then in Afghanistan in 2021, all parties discovered the value of their relations and the motivation to improve them. Because of their common ally, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel found themselves cooperating to support it by providing military equipment which Baku used to drive out Armenian soldiers from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Turkish and Israeli authorities have said that one of the main reasons for mending their relationship is the possibility of sending Israeli gas to Turkey through a pipeline in the eastern Mediterranean.

Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement that controls the Gaza Strip, has long been a particularly contentious issue between Turkey and Israel. Turkey disagrees with Israel’s classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel said last year that before entering into reconciliation talks, it would like to see Ankara take steps to counter the presence of Hamas officials in Turkey. Turkey, however, refused, continuing to maintain ties with the organization and hosting some of its officials in Istanbul. A clear setback came when a senior Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post earlier this year that he had no preconditions vis-à-vis Hamas this time around. Turkish officials point out that many of the Hamas leaders Turkey received were part of Israel’s deals with Hamas.

According to the government source, “Turkey’s attitude towards Hamas has not changed”. “Turkey will continue to ban Hamas from carrying out attacks in Israel. And this has been the situation for years.

Where does the “Palestinian cause” stand:

Turkey has been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause for many years. About 400 years have passed under Turkish rule in the Palestinian territory. Turkey strengthened its support for the PLO, recognized the Palestinian state and pushed aggressively for its independence in 1998. Ankara has stressed that it will not abandon the Palestinian cause while rekindling its ties with Israel. Turkey was keen to stress the potential benefits for the Palestinian people of its normalization with Israel. Turkish Foreign Minister visited Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem while in Israel to show support for Palestine. As we have said before, we will continue to fight for Palestinian rights, according to Cavusoglu. Cavosoglu clarified: “A two-state solution with conditions is the best way to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East. The restoration of normal relations will allow the conflict to be resolved amicably. Turkey is ready to accept responsibility for continuing its dialogue efforts. Turkey has close ties with Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank.

According to Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’ senior leadership, the organization “condemned” any effort to deepen ties with Israel.

In the 1967 war, Israel took control of East Jerusalem and annexed it in a move that went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. East Jerusalem is home to Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites and serves as the emotional epicenter of a conflict that has spanned more than a century. The capital of a future state that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip has often been sought by Palestinian leaders as East Jerusalem.

The nature of dealing with a past as rich as ours forces us to recognize in advance that we won’t always agree on everything, Herzog said. However, he added, “the differences we will strive to resolve with mutual respect and openness, through appropriate channels and institutions, towards a common future.”

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Ankara maintain close relations. Hamas has been classified as a “terrorist” organization by the United States and the EU. Moreover, despite clearly relaxing its criticism of Israel ahead of Herzog’s visit, Ankara has ruled out backing down on its support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israeli-Turkish relations will no longer be as strong as they were in the 1990s, according to Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. Due to Erdogan’s ties to Islamism, Turkey will continue to hold some animosity towards Israel as long as he is in power. He told AFP that he “will continue to help organizations like Hamas”.

But the Palestinians have heard this before. Every Muslim nation that has improved its ties with Israel has pledged to work for peace, but that remains elusive.

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