Israel-Turkey relations may take positive turn – J Post

Relations between Turkey and Israel may be poised to take a positive turn due to shared enemies in Syria, stances over gas exploration in the Mediterranean, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new Israeli foreign minister, columnist Seth Frantzman said in the Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Frantzman cited a recent article in the Israeli media by Israel’s Charge’ d’Affairs for Turkey, Roey Gilad, which argued that Turkey and Israel have common interests – notably a shared enmity towards Lebanese Hezbollah, who played a part in the battle in Idlib, northwest Syria. 

Gilad said that COVID-19 and other challenges might spur a normalisation in relations, including in trade, tourism, energy and academic cooperation. 

But he said that “the ball is on the Turkish side,” because it was Turkey that expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after violence in Gaza and over the decision by the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

There is also still a painful legacy from the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when Turkish activists were killed on a boat trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

But Israel was notable for its lack of support for a recent Cyprus-Egypt-France-Greece-UAE condemnation of Turkey’s gas exploration activities off the coast of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Gabi Ashkenazi as Israel’s new foreign minister could provide the impetus for a fresh approach. Israel-Turkey discussions would please those in Washington who think it might lead to Ankara taking a tougher approach on Iran, Frantzman said. 

On Thursday, an article by Anna Ahronheim in the Jerusalem Post said that the Israeli military had watched with interest and learned from Turkey’s successes in its battle with Hezbollah in Syria earlier this year. 

In early February, Turkey’s military deployed tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, drones and troops to Idlib to halt a Syrian government offensive to retake the country’s last opposition stronghold, which was backed by hundreds of Hezbollah fighters. Ahronheim said Hezbollah had sustained losses not seen in years during the fighting.

Several Turkish media outlets also recently published reports on Gilad’s article and on converging interests in Syria, Frantzman said. 

Yet, while new opportunities for rapprochement may be emerging, in terms of overall strategic views Israel still listed Turkey as a challenge in its annual military assessment in January, and there remain many unresolved issues between the two sides.

“Add it all up and there is much that could change, but there is a lot of inertia in the opposite direction,” Frantzman said.