In the past, Israel has had three important allies in the Muslim world: Iran under the shah, Egypt under Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, and Turkey under various leaders including Recep Tayyip Erdogan – relationships that strengthened our strategic position in the region, our deterrence and our posture in relation to our main ally, the United States.

Today we are left with not even one of the three most important Muslim countries in the region. Iran after the revolution of the ayatollahs has turned to Islamic fundamentalism, aspiring to combine a backward theocratic state with modern means of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, while denying the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist.

As for Egypt, though it is still committed to the peace treaty with Israel even under the new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi, it cannot be considered as a neighbor of Israel that shares and defines common strategic interests. Egyptian public opinion is hostile toward us, because of solidarity with their Palestinian brothers under occupation. The Egyptian civilian leadership from the Brotherhood may be keeping a façade of a relationship with Israel, due to an American dependency, but is not exactly enamored with the Jewish state.

As for Turkey, Israel enjoyed full diplomatic relations with it since 1992, a close economic and trade relationship and a strategic relationship between the two strong armies. These relations have gravely deteriorated, as exemplified by the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, in which Turkey tried to break the Gaza blockade, and in the confrontation with the flotilla, nine Turks were killed by IDF fire on board the vessel.

In the background of this crisis are two conflicting views of the desired solution to the Palestinian issue, and Turkey’s intent to gain clout in the Arab world.

In secret negotiations that aimed to mend the relationship, which took place also due to American encouragement, the Turks demanded a clear apology from Israel for the killing of the nine Turkish citizens.

Israel agreed only to express regret; Binyamin Netanyahu preferred national pride to national interest.

The same can be said of Erdogan.

The Turkish prime minister used his confrontation with Israel and his support for the Palestinians to enhance his position and popularity among Arab regimes and mainly in Arab public opinion. The Arab constituency that has become more relevant and influential in the aftermath of the Arab Spring greeted the Turkish leader, during his visits in the region, with great jubilation.

Although trade remains at a high level, our relations with Ankara continue to deteriorate, our defense relations are at a standstill and the Turkish leadership does not miss an opportunity to criticize the Netanyahu government’s handling of the Palestinian issue.

Israel has a fundamental strategic interest to improve relations with at least one of the three important Muslim powers in the region, and today this is most feasible when it comes to Turkey.

Such an improvement of relations is also in Ankara’s interest; while it has strengthened its position in the Arab world with the “help” of our policies, if Turkey really wants to contribute to peace and stability in the region, it must cooperate with Israel, and with the United States for that matter.

This comes against the backdrop of our growing isolation in the region. The Arab world, which is becoming more a world of the people than of the dictators, is antagonistic to our policies toward the Palestinians, the ongoing occupation and the strengthening of the settlers and the settlements. The Arabs are also debating what kind of governance to choose and what the role of Islam will be in their societies. So far, the post-Arab Spring countries are opting for a relatively moderate Islam coexisting with strong security forces and, sometimes, with young liberal forces (such as in Tunisia and Libya, and to a large degree in the West Bank). The Arabs have two models to choose from when it comes to the position of Islam in their society and their politics: the Turkish model of relatively moderate Islam with a relatively pro-Western democratic system, or the Iranian model of fundamentalist Islam in an anti-Western theocracy. In the end, its either “Ankara” or “Tehran.”

And Israel must also choose – go the Tehran way, attack Iran and create a pan-Muslim hostility for decades while only postponing the Iranian nuclear ambitions, or opt for an accommodation with Ankara as a way to strengthen our regional posture.

Based on informal contacts I had recently with Turkish politicians, including members of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, I believe such an accommodation is possible and should be comprised by the following elements: a) The Israeli government should officially express deep regret for the killing of nine Turks on board the Marmara by IDF sailors. The Turkish government should state that it sees in this expression of regret an official apology.

b) Israel should recognize in a public statement the important regional role of Turkey in the Middle East, including in the peace process.

c) Turkey should recognize in a public statement the legitimate security concerns of Israel in the Middle East, also vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear ambitions, on the basis of statements made by Prime Minister Erdogan in his official visit to Israel in 2005.

d) Turkey and Israel should continue to develop their economic relationship, including tourism and trade (despite the crisis in the relationship, bilateral trade stands today at approximately $1.5 billion).

e) Turkey and Israel should gradually renew their bilateral defense relations.

f) Turkey and Israel should express their common view and concern regarding the crisis and the massacres in Syria.

g) Israel should invite Turkey to play a facilitating role in the renewal of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, possibly in Istanbul, on the basis of the Obama vision of a two-state solution.

h) Turkey and Israel should hold joint talks with the Obama administration with the view of developing a common strategic vision of the region.

The United States has seen Turkey as an important member of the Western alliance since the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the Turkish adhesion to NATO in 1952 and recently in talks held between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan, primarily on the Iran situation.

The US understands what we must internalize – that the inclusion of Turkey into a Western-orchestrated Middle East strategy vis-à-vis Syria, Iran, Egypt and the Palestinians is of great significance in the effort to stabilize and pacify the region. The regional choice is, to a large degree, between Ankara and Tehran. Such an understanding is possible and important to both sides – Israel and Turkey – as well as to the Obama administration.

The Middle East is in transition toward more sociopolitical openness coupled with a greater political role for Islamist movements. In this changing region, Turkey can, in many ways, be a model state if it adheres to its democratic principles and pro-Western positions, and restrains its anti-Israel polemic.

For Israel there lies an important opportunity in a new accommodation of Turkey, provided we allow for a Turkish role in revival of the peace process on the basis of new and realistic positions of Israel on the Palestinian issue.

The Netanyahu government must understand that our national security must take into account strategic shifts in the region, which can be contended with, not through endless and useless analysis, flamboyant hasbara rhetoric, or surrendering for tactical political reasons to the settlers, but rather by thinking and acting strategically and by structuring new strategic alliances.

The writer is president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.

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