The decades-long bonhomie between Turkey and Israel appears to be on the brink of irreparable damage after each of their leaders threw fiery insults against the other over the latest violence in Palestine, with these two former best friends now on the path to becoming worst enemies. Turkey was the first Muslim country to officially recognize Israel’s right to exist and even established high-level strategic relations with it, mostly due to American influence over Ankara in the early stages of the Old Cold War and in the immediate run-up to the Mideast country’s 1952 admission to NATO. These ties subsequently flourished into a trusting partnership that survived all sorts of tests throughout the years, most recently during the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.
Nowadays, however, relations between the two allies are nearing the breaking point as Turkish President Erdogan behaves as Palestine’s self-appointed international spokesman in condemning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for his military’s treatment of the people in Gaza, which has earned him sharp rebukes that his many opponents have applauded and cheered on. As it stands, this is just a war of words that shows no signs of escalating into anything more serious, though words nevertheless have consequences, and the bilateral partnership could be irreparably broken if Israeli lawmakers go through with recognizing what Russia and many Western & Latin American countries already consider to be the Armenian Genocide. This would be an unforgivable affront in the eyes of the Turkish nation and would likely lead to the immediate downgrading of relations with Israel and possibly an official rupturing of ties.
While Palestine has emerged as the focal point of public discord in their strategic partnership, three other very sensitive issues can’t be ignored either. Israel has expressed support for Kurdish militants in Syria and last year’s separatist campaign in Northern Iraq, both of which are seen by Turkey to be national security threats of the highest degree. Moreover, Israel’s latest moves to build a so-called “East Mediterranean Pipeline” through Cyprus’ southern waters and eventually onwards to Europe challenges Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus’ claims to these maritime resources. And finally, Turkey’s fast-moving and full-spectrum rapprochement with Iran since the failure of the summer 2016 pro-American coup makes Israel extremely uneasy.
Bearing in mind the aforementioned additional strategic factors, it’s inevitable that Turkish-Israeli relations will experience more friction in the coming future.
Ahmed Ashfaque, Bangladeshi political commentator and Founder & Editor of Qutnyti blog, and Levent Karaca, Turkish political analyst joined our discussion.
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