Israel, Turkey need greater trust to progress ties - Aykan Erdemir

Israel and Turkey need to re-establish trust and harmony in their relations if they are going to achieve the aim of bolstering ties and strengthening security cooperation in the region, said Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Erdemir spoke in comments for Ahval’s 12 Minutes podcast after a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey’s capital Ankara on Wednesday. Herzog held talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the first visit by an Israeli head of state since 2007.

The two leaders pledged more cooperation in areas such as trade and energy to help repair their countries’ fractured ties. Turkey and Israel are seeking to improve relations broken by Turkish support for Hamas and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which Erdoğan has frequently likened to terrorism.  

“Definitely Israel will not just be interested in diplomatic and trade links with Turkey, but also will want to search for opportunities for security and intelligence cooperation,” Erdemir said. “However, as many Israeli officials have stated, these things are easier said than done given they need a greater degree of trust and harmony between the two states for them to make headway.”

Israel is now likely to approach relations with Turkey with cautious optimism, Erdemir said. But he said Tel Aviv may need to wait until after presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey next year to see where bilateral ties might finally end up.  

“Turkey is heading for some landmark elections in 2023, which might lead to a complete reshuffle of the Turkish political scene,” Erdemir said. “I would say, just like Turkey’s relationship with the United States and the European Union, the relationship with Israel might have to wait until after the 2023 elections to see the ultimate direction it will take.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel were frozen after the deaths of 10 civilians during a 2010 Israeli military raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara aid ship, which was seeking to breach an embargo on the Gaza Strip. After a 2016 reconciliation deal that saw the reinstatement of ambassadors to the two countries, border clashes with Gaza in 2018 saw Turkey recall its diplomats and order Israel’s envoy out of the country.

Turkey has hosted senior officials of Palestinian group Hamas, causing further tensions in the two countries' already fraught relations.

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