Despite recent reports about a coming thaw in relations between Turkey and Israel, they are unlikely to improve before upcoming local elections in March, Turkish academics told a local newspaper.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to be able to use anti-Israel rhetoric to gain votes, Prof. Beril Dedeoglu, from Galatasaray University, told Sunday’s Zaman.

“It seems that some steps are being taken towards normalization with Israel; however, the Turkish government does not want to make this public on the eve of elections because beating Israel has always brought votes,” said Dedeoglu.

Lifting the blockade on Gaza to improve relations with Turkey is not on the agenda, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said last week, responding to Erdogan’s making this a condition for ending the MV Mavi Marmara saga.

Frequent reports over the past few weeks in the Turkish press indicated an imminent deal on compensation payments, a deal that – coupled with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan for operative errors that may have caused the loss of life in the incident – would lead to a renewal of full ties. A Turkish delegation was in Israel within the past month for discussions on the matter.

“However, the negotiation process indicates that soon after the March 30 elections, the two countries will take steps towards normalization.

Both sides are working to prepare the ground for this rapprochement,” Prof. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, from Ankara’s Gazi University and the head of the Center for International Strategy and Security Studies, told Sunday’s Zaman.

Asked if he sees relations improving after the elections, Erol told The Jerusalem Post, “In my opinion, a new start between Turkey and Israel is related to external factors since the present crises are a result of the former Middle East order.”

“Now we are face to face with a new Middle East. So, this situation forces these two old friends to develop a powerful cooperation rather than conflict.” Erol added.

Herb Keinon contributied to this report.


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