Can Turkey and Israel sustain detente?

Turks greet the flagship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla after it was raided by Israeli commandos
Dec. 26, 2010: Thousands of Turks greeted the Mavi Marmara in Istanbul after its attempt to run the Gaza blockade triggered a diplomatic breach with Israel (source: dpa)
  • Turkey’s breach with Israel began and ended at initiative of Mr. Erdogan
  • Rapprochement allows Ankara to focus on its Syrian Kurdish problem
  • Key risk is renewed Hamas attacks on Israel from bases in Gaza
  • Potential gas deal could pave way for more sustained Turkish-Israeli partnership

After a six-year freeze, Turkey and Israel are at last experiencing a diplomatic thaw. On August 20, Turkish lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a normalization deal signed between the two countries two months earlier. Israel’s security cabinet had immediately endorsed the agreement, but its ratification in Ankara was delayed by the Turkish military’s failed coup on July 15.

It was a reconciliation three years in the making, reflecting the complexity of bilateral relations, which have oscillated between strategic cooperation and open antagonism from Ankara. The restoration of full diplomatic relations could usher in a new era of cooperation in key areas.

The shift represents a belated recognition by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he cannot keep picking fights with Turkey’s neighbors and must extricate the country from its dangerous isolation. Both sides made painful compromises but left one major issue hanging: nothing explicit was said about Hamas, which has been planning terror attacks against Israel from Turkey.

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