Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during an iftar event in Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel stands to gain the most from the reconciliation agreement with Turkey that was finally approved – after a long delay – over the weekend.
Ultimately, Israel did not back down and agree to Turkey’s initial demand that it be allowed to transfer goods directly to Gaza without Israeli supervision. However, while Turkey committed to remove Hamas’s military headquarters and activists from its territory, the Israeli defense establishment is doubtful this will happen.
The Turkish parliament is passing legislation that will cancel the lawsuits it had filed against IDF officers and soldiers who were involved in the Mavi Marmara incident conducted by the Israeli Navy, an episode in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed attacking Israeli commandos.
According to the new law, it will not be possible for Turkish citizens to file similar lawsuits in the future.
Turkey’s achievements, though, are mostly ones of honor.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologized for the six-year-old incident. In about three weeks, Israel will also transfer $21 million to a humanitarian fund that will be managed by the Turkish government. The funds will be distributed by the Turkish government to families impacted by the incident and those who were wounded in the flotilla.
Both countries will reinstate ambassadors to each other’s embassies, re-establishing the highest diplomatic relations, but this is also only a symbolic step.
As far as economic relations are concerned, relations between the two nations were actually ongoing during the last six years and trade even increased.
Turkey has changed much over the years and not for the better. By maintaining a failing foreign policy, she found herself isolated and conflicted with her neighbors: Syria, Iraq, the Kurds and, until recently, Russia.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime secretly supported ISIS, purchasing oil from the terrorist organization while smuggling weapons and allowing terrorist supporters from Europe, Russia, China and Southeast Asia to pass through its borders on their way to the killing fields of the Islamic state. On the other hand, Turkey allowed and assisted refugees, mainly from Syria, to infiltrate Europe – which undermined Turkey’s relations with the European Union.
The United States for years urged Israel to sign the reconciliation agreement. Following the coup attempt in Turkey late last month, relations between Ankara and Washington have considerably soured, in part due to the United States’ refusal to extradite Erdogan’s sworn enemy, Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish president blames for the military uprising.
Erdogan is also looking to reconcile with Russia and rebuild ties with Iran, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Now Turkey is singing a different tune, and is no longer demanding Assad’s removal from power, instead publicly stating the need for Syria to maintain its integrity and stop the Kurdish population from establishing its own state.
Israel must continue to be cautious in its relations with Turkey and take a respectful, yet wary, approach. Erdogan will continue to support Hamas, and it is doubtful that his intelligence services would agree to renewed links with the Mossad.
The prospect that Turkey will return to the Israeli arms market is also dim, though there is little doubt that Ankara will not hesitate to purchase Israeli-made drones or intelligence equipment for its war against the Kurds.
Perhaps most important of all, Israel does not want to be a part of a Russian effort to establish a new alliance in the Middle East that looks to push out the United States.
Even so, Washington is not pleased with Netanyahu’s frequent dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has visited four times in the last year, and is not convinced that their relationship is based solely on creating a coordinated mechanism designed to prevent accidents between their air forces as they fly above Syria.
Perhaps this explains former prime minister Ehud Barak’s cryptic remarks, statements he declined to explain publicly, on “another affair” that demonstrates the lack of responsibility on the part of Netanyahu.