Israel must reevaluate its relations with Turkey, says new analysis
In a recent article by Yoni Ben Menachem for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a detailed analysis of the escalating tensions between Israel and Turkey was presented following Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen's decision to recall Israeli diplomatic representatives from Turkey. This move came in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's overt support for Hamas during their conflict with Israel. This stance has significantly strained relations between the two nations.
Erdogan, the head of the AKP (Justice and Development Party), has consistently shown support for Hamas. He views the group not as a terrorist organization but as a liberation movement, even amidst Hamas' violent actions in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. His perspective was underscored by large-scale pro-Hamas demonstrations in Turkey, which have fueled the current diplomatic rift. The Israeli embassy in Ankara was preemptively evacuated due to potential threats stemming from these tensions.
This diplomatic fallout marks a significant reversal from the recent attempts at normalizing relations between Israel and Turkey. Erdogan, who had previously moderated his stance against Israel for political reasons, reverted to strong criticisms during a conflict with Islamic Jihad in Gaza in August 2022. This attempted rapprochement was part of his broader strategy to alleviate Turkey's international isolation and address its economic struggles. He sought potential alliances and economic benefits from Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, including cooperation on natural gas projects in the Mediterranean.
For Israel, normalization with Turkey represented a move towards enhanced regional stability and economic progress, fostering vital intelligence cooperation. This partnership led to the thwarting of Iranian-planned attacks on Israelis in Turkey.
However, tensions have been simmering, particularly over the Hamas presence in Istanbul. The city harbors a significant Hamas office, led by Saleh al-Arouri, implicated in directing terror activities and recruitment. Despite international pressure, Turkey has refrained from shutting down this office.
President Erdogan has reassured Hamas of his unwavering support, dismissing Israeli concerns and evidence regarding the group's terrorist activities in Turkey. He maintains that the operatives in Istanbul are solely engaged in political work.
Ben Menachem argues that Israel must reconsider its approach towards Turkey, recognizing that Erdogan's support for Hamas is unlikely to wane. He suggests that Israel should capitalize on global opposition to Hamas terrorism to pressure Turkey into closing the Hamas military wing's offices in Istanbul. This development underscores the complex geopolitical landscape involving Turkey's internal politics, regional aspirations, and its convoluted relationship with Israel amidst ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.