15:14 GMT +324 September 2017
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    A billboard with photos of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, placed on a main street by the Ankara.

    Israeli-Turkish Thaw: Can Netanyahu Trust Erdogan?

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    Will Turkey and Israel mend diplomatic relations ruined by the deadly raid on the Turkish vessel MV Mavi Marmara back in 2010? Experts say there is a stumbling block in the way to reconciliation between the two countries.

    Ankara and Jerusalem are taking their first steps toward normalization since the 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara vessel that resulted in the death of ten Turkish nationals.

    "Media reports suggest that Turkey and Israel are inching toward an agreement to restore full diplomatic relations, which have been on the rocks since Israel intercepted the Mavi Marmara vessel in 2010," Benjamin Weinthal, a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, notes in his piece for The National Interest.

    Weinthal cites Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said: "Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. We have to admit that we also need Israel."

    The scholar calls attention to the fact that Ankara has announced it will appoint Can Dizdar, the Foreign Ministry's Director General for the Middle East, as the new ambassador to Israel.

    "Dizdar's appointment hinges on the conclusion of the Mavi Marmara package agreement," Weinthal underscored, adding that the resumption of diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey could help with the Syrian refugee crisis.

    At the same time the scholar remarks that currently relations between the two powers "resemble a sort of clumsy tango, alternating forward steps with backward stumbling."

    Indeed, there are a number of obstacles in the way to reconciliation.

    Weinthal refers to Erdogan's scandalous "Hitler" remark and recalls that in 2013 the Turkish leader provided Iran's intelligence agency with secret data regarding the identities of ten Iranians "who were part of an Israeli spy ring."

    According to the scholar, the main impediment to normalization is Erdogan's longstanding support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Palestinian group, designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the EU and the US.

    Expert in Israeli politics, society and security Moran Stern shares Wienthal's concerns.

    "It seems that the most complicated hurdles to reconciliation: Turkey's close relations with Hamas, its demand that Israel officially lift the blockade over Gaza, and energy security, have yet to be removed, suggesting that rapprochement might be premature," Moran Stern, a PhD candidate in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, notes in his analysis for The Jerusalem Post.

    "As a party with deep Islamist roots, the AKP [The Justice and Development Party] has courted the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas," the expert explains.

    Stern underscores that the Turkish demand to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip may lead to the next round of bloodbaths between Tel Aviv and Hamas. The expert suggests that once the blockade is lifted Hamas and other jihadis "will flood Gaza with sophisticated arms," which will put Israel's civilian population under threat.

    Both scholars agree that the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement will play a positive role for the two states and for the region as a whole. With the hurdles removed "2016 might see a well-performed tango that benefits both countries."

    The question remains open what measures Erdogan, who positions himself as the patron of Gaza, would take in the event of a potential Israeli-Hamas conflict.

    "After getting what it desires, Turkey might see itself free to resume its attacks on Israel in order to garner the support of Muslims across the region," Stern warns.

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    Tags:
    Middle East, rapprochement, Palestinians, blockade, Islamic extremism, Jihadists, arms, The Syrian war, Justice and Development Party (AKP), Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gaza Strip, Israel, Turkey, Syria
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