The relationship between Turkey and Israel is a very fragile thing. These nations have a long history. One day they are in the coldest of political rifts, tomorrow they are back together again, just like a high school couple. Last Tuesday, Israel and Turkey signed a deal to restore ties after a nearly seven-year rift, which is a sabbatical. The agreement was officially signed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director, General Dore Gold, in Jerusalem and the Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu, in Ankara, according to the newswire. And it seems that making-up, which all couples do, is more important to Turkey than it is to the Jewish state.
Relations between the two geopolitical rivals grew stale around May 2010 when Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which had arrived at its coast carrying so-called “activists.” Ten Turkish citizens of almost a total 500 were shot to death by Israeli forces on the ship. While Turkey holds that the ten killed were merely activists on a mission to get Israeli to relinquish its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israel insists the people onboard the ship were stick and knife-wielding terrorists. They could never agree on which side of the story to settle with despite United Nations investigations and leftist hoopla.
In the early 15th century, Jews fled to Turkey in droves to escape death at the hands of the Catholic Spanish Inquisition. Turkey had famously opened its doors to these immigrants of the Jewish faith and there remains a large Sephardic Jewish population in Turkey, even today. So that is why it is important for these two countries to agree. And yes, historically Israel must offer cultural gratitude.
The land of Israel was previously known as the land of Palestine, especially to the Turks during the Ottoman Empire. Israel won its independence in 1918, fighting alongside the British.
Another thing they agree about is the danger posed by ISIS. Tuesday an explosion rocked the largest airport in Turkey killing almost 50. The attack instantly fit the profile of ISIS. The dangers posed by the Islamic world, Israel knows well because of its border with Syria. While they cannot get involved immediately, Israel siding with Kurdish forces in Syria sets an example for the Turks. Being the stranger that he is, President Barack Obama publicly apologized to Recep Erdogan on Israel’s behalf.
In the last few years, things between the Israelis and the Turkish have gotten pretty heated. And in the wake of pressure by President Obama, Israel has been forced into a corner where they have had to defend themselves. Actually the hostilities began in 2008, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, an excursion into Gaza to remove firing points of Palestinian rockets at Israeli civilian territory. The United Nations launched a war crimes report on Israel called the Goldstone report and found nothing, but Ankara continued to point the finger at Jerusalem, as did Obama.
The first reason why Turkey wishes to make amends is the energy industry. Israel has found a lot of offshore gas, and there is also a lot of gas in Cyprus. Cyprus had had to fight for its autonomy over the oil from Turkey. Israel has acted like a third party diplomat, nearly solving the energy rift.
So for these reasons, the influence of the regional Kurds, the specter of oil and the fight against ISIS and other Islamic terrorism, it would make more sense for Turkey to just settle down.
Even the most anti-Israel power hitter out there, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, sees hope for the situation. Under the contract for the new deal, the naval blockade on Gaza which Turkey had wanted removed, remains intact. Humanitarian aid may continue to travel by way of the Israeli border. The blockade is just a means of curbing arms smuggling by Hamas. It is not meant to be mean.
Under the deal, the naval blockade of Gaza, which Ankara had wanted lifted, remains in force, although humanitarian aid can continue to be transferred to Gaza via Israeli ports. Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to curb arms smuggling by Hamas, an Islamist group that last fought a war with Israel in 2014.
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, said on Monday the two countries will appoint ambassadors soon. So, the two are making amends, and it is certainly not Israel that is apologizing; more the other way around.