Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan .
(photo credit: GERARD FOUET / AFP)
Israel and Turkey appear to be close to normalizing relations, though it is not yet a done deal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist ideology and coziness with radical groups such as Hamas are likely to get in the way sooner or later.
Erdogan and his AKP government’s rhetoric against Israel, its harboring of Hamas terrorists and efforts to get its hand into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may quiet down for a bit if a deal is reached, but it is only a matter of time before such anti-Israel actions return.
On Saturday, Erdogan reportedly met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and according to a report on Monday in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, Mashaal also met with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for over two hours on Sunday.
It appears that Turkey is going out of its way to make sure Hamas is taken care of in the event a deal is reached, possibly in connection to reports that Israel is demanding that senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri leave the country.
Israeli-Turkish relations soured after a deadly 2010 incident, in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed as Israel enforced a maritime blockade on Gaza. The sides have held contacts to overcome that rift, and now these rather slow moving efforts may have been boosted indirectly by Ankara’s crisis with Moscow.
More than half of Turkey’s gas and 10 percent of its oil come from Russia, the British Telegraph
reported this month.
Perhaps Erdogan is thinking about offsetting the potential loss of Russian energy by rekindling a past proposal to house a pipeline though which it would help export Israel’s offshore natural gas to Europe.
Daniel Pipes, historian and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, commented in a post on the National Review website on Sunday that a gas deal with Turkey is not in Israel’s interests.
Once the crisis with Russia passes, “Turkish Islamists will resume their old ways, including the bitterly anti-Israel dimension,” he wrote.
“Because a gas pipeline renders Israel hostage to Turkey into the long-range future, this looks like an imprudent step,” argued Pipes.
He told The Jerusalem Post
that fixing relations with Israel is part of a larger pattern of distancing Turkey from the Russian-Chinese led Shanghai Cooperation Organization that Erdogan had flirted with joining and returning to NATO’s embrace.
“Fixing relations with NATO may not counter Russia, but it does provide Ankara with protection from Moscow’s potential predations,” Pipes said. “Israeli groveling is merely a decoration on top of this strategic shift.”
Brandon Friedman, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a researcher at its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told the Post that Russia has demonstrated it vigilantly defends its share of the European natural gas market.
“Israel would do well to take into account Russia’s commercial interests before it decides to export natural gas through Turkey to Europe,” he said.