Israeli and Turkish flags 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is easy to judge Israeli-Turkish relations by what we all can see – military
exercises have come to an end and defense exports to what was once one of
Israel’s best customers are almost completely frozen.
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There is also, of
course, the diplomatic fallout from the current crisis which makes Israel even
more isolated in an already extremely volatile Middle East.
however, greater ramifications that Israel does not yet know how and if they
will play out.
For Israel, Turkey was more than just a country with
airspace and waters in which to train. It was a partner in the war on terror and
a confidant when it came to sensitive intelligence information regarding attacks
against Israel or terrorist plans throughout the region.
One example was
in 2009 when the media reported about the thwarting of terrorist plans to shoot
down an Israeli airliner over Turkey with shoulder-to-air missiles.
scheme was apparently an effort by Hezbollah to avenge the 2008 assassination of
its military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, which the Lebanese guerrilla
group attributed to the Mossad.
Other examples include the recent
grounding of Iranian transport aircraft in Turkey earlier this year that were
allegedly carrying weaponry destined for Hezbollah, and the seizure of some 300
Iranian rockets aboard a freight train on its way to Syria via Turkey in
There was also the alleged Israeli strike four years ago this month
against the nuclear reactor President Bashar Assad was building in northeast
After the bombing and as they lit their boosters to evade Syrian
air defense missiles, the Israel Air Force fighter jets dropped their
supplemental fuel tanks over Turkish territory. While the Turks, who were
accused of allowing Israel to use its airspace, made a fuss and asked Israel for
clarifications, the event was quickly shelved in the interest of both
In short, Israel could be losing not only a diplomatic and
military ally but also a partner in the war on terror.
This could mean
that Israel will not have someone to pass on information to in the event that it
knows of plans to perpetrate attacks in Turkey or elsewhere in the region, and
that the Turks might no longer have as strong an interest in intercepting
weapons shipments that may pass through their country on their way to Iran’s
various terror proxies.
Israel has already voiced concern over the
appointment last year of Hakan Fidan as Ankara’s intelligence czar. Fidan, who
heads Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, is believed to have strong ties
with Iran and there has been concern, since his appointment last summer, that
information Israel passes on to Turkey makes its way elsewhere as
What happens next in the ongoing Israel-Turkey saga is
Both countries have national pride at stake that will likely
continue to play a role in the inability to reach a compromise that would end
the crisis. Turkey has threatened to deploy its navy in the eastern
Mediterranean to accompany future aid ships to Gaza. Senior defense officials
said Sunday that while they did not believe the threat would materialize, it was
a direct challenge to Israeli sovereignty and could not be easily
On the other hand, though, the involvement of the United States
in Turkey and the country’s continued membership in NATO likely means that the
crisis will not develop into something larger, like a military
The same day that Ankara said it was reducing ties, it
also announced that it had agreed to deploy an advanced American radar in its
territory as part of the US’s European missile defense shield. With Israel and
Turkey failing to reach a compromise, it might be up to the Americans to play a
more active role in getting their two strongest allies in the region back