My Take on Turkey-Israel

Between the years 2005 until 2011 I visited Turkey extensively, averaging five or six times each year. I developed close friendships and happy customers there throughout that period.

This came crashing down with the Marmara incident in 2010, and then the UN Report in 2011 (which largely absolved Israel) which ironically was the last straw for the Turks.

My main customers were issued an anti-Israeli directive by their government, and I was officially persona non-grata.

From my perspective, the Marmara protest fleet (flotilla) was a deliberate provocation against Israel, directly supported by the Government of Turkey. Their pretense that this was a humanitarian aid mission was a thinly veiled charade.

It was a political protest. It was planned to spotlight the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, subject Israel to international political pressure, and thereby politically further the cause of Hamas.

However, the flotilla was not a terror or military attack on Israel. The protest ships were just that.

The Israeli response to the Marmara provocation was, frankly, a 'fashla' (mess-up) at the operative level.

Yes, the thugs on the ship were violent and armed themselves with make-shift clubs and knives.

However, from their perspective they were defending their protest ship from combat naval boats & helicopter-borne fully armed (and protected) elite naval "seals".

Stopping this civilian protest ship from entering Israel's territorial waters by Israel's armed forces, if properly carried out, should not have cost 9 civilian lives.

The cost of this operational fashla for Israel has been six years of deep-freeze relations with our erstwhile political friend, economic partner and military ally.

In the meantime, the political, military and economic landscape has changes, both for Israel and for Turkey.

Both Israel and Turkey are (even) more isolated politically than in 2010. Turkey in particular has fallen out with almost everyone imaginable - most recently Russia.

The regional defense needs are even worse than 2010 - particularly with the implosion of Syria and the new ISIS conquests and threat on Turkey's southern border and Israel's Northern border.

Economically, the gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean are potentially macro-economic game-changer for the whole region. The need for this is particularly acute for the Turks, given the loss of Russia as their strategic energy supplier.

The times is ripe for both Ankara and Jerusalem to finally patch up this dispute and move forward.

From what has been released about the Agreement now being formally ratified in both countries, it appears to be a reasonable balance between Turkey backing down on its quest to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, while requiring Israel to pay out financially and symbolically for its operational 'fashla'.  

Of course, Israel wants more, such as the return of the two Israelis being held in Gaza, and the bodies of the two fallen Israeli soldiers. But the bottom line is that it is not reasonable to demand from Turkey something which is not under their control. The hostages and bodies are held by Hamas in Gaza, not by Erdogan in Turkey. The Turks can exert influence, which can only help, and this, Netanyahu has stated, they have agreed to do.

I hope this Agreement will be an important step in building a much better future between Israel and Turkey than the past six years of the freeze, and may even, with time, lead to rebuilding the previous mutual trust and burgeoning regional relations.


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