Cooperation between Turkish, Israeli civil society can improve countries’ relations - analyst

Increased cooperation between Turkish and Israeli civil society organisations can have a “positive spill-over effect” on the bilateral relations both countries seek to normalise, said Nimrod Goren, head of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

“Israelis and Turks who care about the relationship between the two countries and who yearn for better ties, do not have to wait for their leaders to change paths and reconcile,” Goren said in an opinion piece published on Saturday in the Jerusalem Post.

Turkish-Israeli relations hit an all-time low in 2018 when Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own envy over Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Ankara has recently expressed a willingness for better ties with Israel since reports in November revealed a series of meetings between the countries’ top intelligence officials to discuss reconciliation.

“While the political leaders are the ones setting the tone in the bilateral relations, Israel-Turkey ties go beyond them, and are not dependent only on how the heads of states relate to each other,” Goren said.

Turkey and Israel share similar global, regional and domestic challenges that civil society organisations can work together to overcome, Goren said. The scholar cited examples of issues including climate change, conflict resolution in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, strengthening democracy and easing tensions between religion and state.

“As cooperation among societies increases, Israel-Turkey relations will become less dependent on the politicians,” Goren said. “The leaders, in turn, may feel more at ease to seek paths to improve ties, despite the existing political differences, if they sense that this is in line with public sentiments.”

Goren cited a Mitvim Institute poll in October 2020 which showed that 56 percent of Israelis wanted their country to try improving ties with Turkey, while only 32 percent do not.

“This finding contradicts the negative political discourse against Turkey in Israel and may encourage those politicians who see value in improving ties to speak up,” he said.
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