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Cautious optimism as diplomatic relations being restored

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For the first time since 2010, when bilateral ties were shattered by Israel’s storming of pro-Palestinian aid convoy that tried to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip, a Turkish ship docked in Haifa. The frigate Kemalreis was part of NATO manoeuvres in the Mediterranean Sea. (Screencap: Cavit Ege Tulça YouTube)

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A couple of decades ago, I remembered thinking about how great a natural alliance between Israel and Turkey, the two rare democracies seen in the Middle East at that time, would be. Good relations were seen in business, art and culture, tourism, defence and intelligence. Of course, it’s not that everything was okay between the two countries.

With the Palestinian cause strongly and – one should sometimes say – blindly defended by the Erdogan government, obstacles had always been laying in the road leading to a frank approach between Ankara and Tel-Aviv, noting that Turkey does not officially accept Jerusalem as the Jewish State’s capital.

Then a period full of turbulence reigned over the parties. A kind of turbulence that deeply affected the interests Turkey had in Israel and vice versa. It was only after the Abraham Accords, the agreements among Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel on the eastern Mediterranean, and the unexpected situation in Syria that Ankara felt somehow isolated in the region where once it claimed to be the leader.

Objections were raised when the USA and other western countries – though not all – moved their Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Harsh wordings were cried out with the signing of the Accords. UAE and Bahrein were severely accused of betraying the Palestinian cause by Erdogan.

The Hamas rockets that landed in Israel and targeting the lives of Israelis never raised any concerns. Instead, Israel was accused of repeatedly using disproportionate force to silence the Palestinians over the years.

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The Turkish ruling establishment has never been fond of Israel. This is something that one has to put in the first place before starting to master the two countries’ relations.

When President Herzog visited Ankara to meet with President Erdogan, it was thought that this would start a new era between the two countries. In May, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and Energy Minister visited Israel. Things were moving slowly in the right direction. However, in each step, Ankara’s political bosses emphasized that

Palestine was a red line for Turkey. That’s how the government planned to leave an open door for a “just in case” scenario that might develop and jeopardize the loosely tight domestic situation.

For decades anti-Israel slogans and harsh criticism were shouted out by politicians, government-controlled media, religious leaders etc. And suddenly, springtime was being introduced with a country “that knew how to kill people”, a country “that forced Palestinians to live under conditions worse than Nazi times”… It would be hard to explain the new “rapprochement” with the Jewish State, to faithful voters crashed under high inflation and worsening economic and social conditions. What a dilemma?

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The exchange of visits between the two countries led to some steps taken to restore diplomatic relations, which had been frozen since 2010, after the Mavi Marmara incident. Though there were some trials, first in 2013 and then in 2015, when Israel appointed an Ambassador to Ankara, Turkey always declined to do so because of the Palestinian issue. 

In fact, the Israeli Ambassador to Ankara was expelled when Israel defended itself against the many rockets launched from Gazza: The reason was “excessive force used against the civil population” of the Strip. And Israel expelled the Turkish Consul General to Tel Aviv…  These were really early attempts.

Nowadays, both parties have agreed to nominate their new Ambassadors. As stated by an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, “it’s a matter of time and not of if’s”… In fact, the elections to be held in Israel may be an essential factor that may cause some delays. What if Netanyahu wins the elections and becomes once again Israeli PM? Will the two, Erdogan and Bibi, that despise each other, be in the position to lead their countries through the softening process? 

However, other important issues are also pending. The fact that some Hamas leaders are residing in Turkey is one of them. This would not be something that Israel would like to see…  One may ask why Hamas is so prevalent in the Turkish ruling circles. The answer will lie in the extensive sympathy the AKP 2 has for the Palestinian cause and Hamas in particular. The fact that the latter is seen as a terrorist by NATO – which Turkey has been a member of since 1952 – and not by Ankara, is a situation that needs to be clarified by Turkish authorities.

Nobody awaits to see a deadlock relationship prosper in a couple of months.

However, it’s good enough to trace some hints that prove the positive way things are moving. A September 4th news diffused by Reuters informs about the docking of a Turkish warship to Haifa Port with a heading: “Turkish Warship docks in Israel as bilateral ties warm”…

Marsel Russo was born in Istanbul and was raised in a secular Jewish family. He holds a Chemistry degree and an MBA. His deep interest in the Jewish history of the 20th century, as well as other topics, has appeared since 2005 in Shalom, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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