Israeli and Turkish flags [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkey is interested in renewing military ties with Israel after a deal is done to normalize diplomatic relations, defense sources said in Ankara.
Ankara would like to buy advanced-technology armaments from Israel such as drones and surveillance systems, sources told the Istanbul- based Today’s Zaman newspaper on Thursday.
It wants the drones to help in its war against Kurdish rebels in mountainous areas.
During the 1990s, Turkey and Israel had close ties and cooperated militarily as the Anatolian country was cut off from purchasing Western weapons systems because of human rights abuses connected with its battle with the Kurds, the report noted.
For example, Israel Air Force pilots trained in Turkish airspace and used an air base in Konya province.
But now with the rumors of a rapprochement, defense sources said Ankara is eager to renew military-to-military cooperation.
This includes reviving defense deals that were frozen.
Israel’s once-strong ties to Turkey soured in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident and because of the anti-Israel ideology of the Islamist AKP government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Selin Nasi, a columnist for the Turkish-Jewish weekly Salom and a contributor to Hurriyet Daily News, told The Jerusalem Post the diplomatic situation between Israel and Turkey is currently unclear, but that improved military cooperation would be in the interests of both countries.
One sign of improved relations would be if Turkey relaxes its objections to Israel participation in NATO activities, she said.
“The path to a normalization of relations would not be smooth, particularly on the Turkish side,” Nasi continued.
In addition to ideological obstacles, there is the question of whether the governing AK Party would be satisfied with only a partial lifting of the embargo through Israel easing restrictions on trade from Turkey to the Gaza Strip, the Jewish- Turkish intellectual asserted.
It would be unrealistic to ask that the Turkish government completely cut off ties with Hamas, she added.
Furthermore, she continued, there is discontent on the Israel issue in the AKP’s Islamist political base.
“Therefore, the AKP must prepare the domestic audience for a thaw between the two countries.
It won’t be an easy task to erase the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric from their collective memories.”
Nasi says that a deal perhaps could establish cooperation on some issues, while excluding more thorny ones.
One Israeli official sought on Tuesday to tamp down some of the optimism that emerged following the Prime Minister Office’s statement last week about progress on improving relations. The announcement had indicated that a number of issues were agreed upon during secret talks in Switzerland between Israeli and Turkish officials, paving the way for a rapprochement.
“We have consistently been open to better relations,” the official said. “We were open to this in 2015, 2014, 2013, and it didn’t happen because the Turks were not willing.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) that was behind the 2010 Marmara protest flotilla, criticized the Turkish government attempt at repairing ties with Israel.
“We personally do not find any agreement with Israel correct, because Israel has not acted according to other agreements it has signed,” said IHH President Bulent Yildrim, as quoted by Today’s Zaman.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.