Turkey-Israel reconciliation could reshape the Middle East, says new analysis

Turkey-Israel reconciliation could reshape the Middle East, says new analysis
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While greater cooperation between Turkey and Israel can bolster U.S. strategies in the Middle East, it also signals local actors' concerns about American reliability.

The recent meeting in New York between Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is not just another diplomatic event. The reconciliation has far-reaching implications for the Middle East, potentially more significant than the 2019 Abraham Accords, writes in a new analysis by Ambassador James Jeffrey.

In the analysis published by The Hill, Jeffrey stresses that having served as a U.S. ambassador to Turkey, he has witnessed Erdogan and Netanyahu's strained relationship over the past 14 years. Their recent efforts to mend fences might be the key to bolstering regional security, especially considering the challenges posed by Iranian terrorism, Russian interference, and a perceived decline in American commitment.

The positive shift in Turkish-Israeli relations could reshape dynamics, influencing Syria, Iraq, and the Caucasus. Iran and Assad have reasons to be wary.

Recent diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East, whether the Iranian-Saudi understanding or the Arab League's embrace of Syria, often reflect a response to changing American priorities. The U.S., while still present, is increasingly focusing on Russia and China, leading regional players to reconsider their alliances and strategies.

Jeffrey notes that Turkey and Israel, once close allies, drifted apart for personal and strategic reasons. Events such as Israel's incursion into Gaza in 2008 and the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident strained ties. Turkey's support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring and disputes over the Eastern Mediterranean gas resources intensified conflicts.

However, Turkey recalibrated its foreign policy after a decade of political turbulence. This shift became clear with Turkey's outreach to Arab states and its stance against Russian military interventions. Israel, too, has been broadening its diplomatic horizon with the Abraham Accords and fostering ties with Saudi Arabia.

According to the writer, the current focus of the Turkish-Israeli relationship lies in energy cooperation, trade, and investments. The mutual goal of countering Iran's regional influence further binds them. While direct military coordination remains unlikely, understanding each other's strategic interests could complicate the plans of Assad and his allies.

Yet, this renewed relationship is pragmatic. Israel's policies toward Palestinians could still strain the ties, especially given Erdogan's sensitivities.

In conclusion, Jeffrey adds that greater cooperation between Turkey and Israel can bolster U.S. strategies in the Middle East and signal local actors' concerns about American reliability. As regional powers take the lead, the U.S. might find its influence diminished, potentially reshaping the geopolitical landscape in unforeseen ways.