YAIAR – Turkish-Israeli relations

Turkish-Israeli relationsA long period of friendship without any major problems between Turkey and Israel was interrupted as a result of a series of unfortunate but avoidable incidents.Then, after a stand-off lasting several years, both countries seemed to have understood that relations had to be mended and encouraging statements were made to that effect by both sides.

Everybody’s hope was that the two countries were going to open a new chapter in their relations.Israelis were trying to secure a written guarantee from Turkey to drop the penal prosecution against the perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara raid, and not to go back to square one after the reconciliation agreement is signed and both sides’ ambassadors were sent back to their posts.

On Monday this week, when this expectation was still alive, a criminal court in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for four top Israeli officials and asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice to arrest themThe Turkish executive has no authority to interfere in judicial procedures, but it will again be the executive power of government that will have to take the hot potatoes out of the fire.I still keep my fingers crossed in hope that the process of reconciliation will not grind to a halt, because the present period had seemed suitable to take initiatives to mend the relations for several reasons:First, because the foundations of the future Middle East are being laid slowly.

Turkey’s perception regarding the future Middle East may not be the same as Israel’s. They may even contradict each other on some major issues.

However, both sides will render a better service if they focus on areas of converging interests rather than highlighting the differences.The Syrian crisis offers ample opportunities for cooperation to Turkey and Israel.

Despite differences, they have also several converging interests. If the Syrian regime does not fall soon, Turkey will have to adjust its policy to the reality in the field.

Such an adjustment could be better achieved by cooperating with Israel, because it has certain Track II channels of communications with Syria Turkey has others. They may join hands to facilitate the transition to democracy in Syria without harming their own national interests.

Egypt is another area of cooperation. Turkey has a lot to gain from improved relations with Egypt, whoever governs it.

Egypt is an important country in the Middle East, in the Arab world, in Africa and in the world at large.Both Turkey and Israel stand to gain by the political stability of Egypt.

Even if it does not happen tomorrow, both countries should keep the door open for bilateral cooperation in order to contribute to this stability.The second reason for cooperation between Turkey and Israel is the international environment that surrounds both countries.

Israel is coming to the end of its options in the Palestinian dispute. The US administration could not deliver what it was aiming for in the Palestinian question.

It cannot disown Israel, but it will have to recalibrate the relationship after this failure.Thawing relations between the US and Iran may negatively affect US-Israeli relations in the short term In this environment, Israel will need the friendship of countries like Turkey more than in the past.

Turkey also needs friends. Turkey’s genuine and justified efforts to contribute to stability in the region led nowhere, partly for reasons beyond Turkey’s control.

Turkey has to be more realistic now regarding the limits of what it can achieve in the Middle East and beyond. This will open new areas of cooperation between Turkey and Israel, because Israel is much more than a country of over 8 million inhabitants.

Despite its constraints, it can open several doors in the US administration and in many Western countries. It has strong influence in the international media These are assets that Turkey could benefit fromIt is difficult to tell how the Istanbul criminal court verdict will affect the reconciliation process between Turkey and Israel, but the period that we are crossing at present could be compared to a period of convalescence after a sickness of seven to eight years.

The convalescence requires more sensitive health care. I hope that both sides are aware of this.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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