İstanbul Kültür University

60 some years of the Turkish-Israeli Relations | Star | Mensur Akgün

The relations between Israel and Turkey have been established in 1949 and have permanently followed an inconsistent pattern since then. It has been affected by the wars, interventions, and, further most, by the global tensions.

Turkey, as it has been case with its relations with the Arab World, has seen its relations with Israel as a derivative of the Turkish-American relations.

At times under pressure, Turkey has benefitted from the Israeli/Jewish lobby; or, in some other necessary times, from the Israeli military technology. Turkey has suspended the relations at times when she felt constrained; while Israel acting not very differently. She has seen Turkey as the first Muslim country to recognize Israel, perceiving her as the only solution for Israel’s political isolation.

However, last Friday’s meeting that has been organized by the Carnegie Endowment and the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) in Washington, D.C., which Ambassdor Alon Liel, the former Under Secretary of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Can Yirik introduced their album book on the Turkish-Israeli relations, once more depicted the many interesting memories through the photos that has been lived throughout the history of the relations. The photos in the album book put forward the Israeli soldiers that have pursued a march in review on the Istiklal Avenue; an Israeli pilot, putting his life under threat, in order to transport an earthquake aid to Turkey before the Americans to do so; the founding fathers of the country who have been educated at the Istanbul University; and thousands of people that has gathered on the doorways of the Consulate building in Istanbul during its opening in 1949.

It is hard to forecast whether those good and old days will be lived through once again; yet, it is certain that the tension between the two countries should end, and the conditions are extremely favorable in that regard. The détente that has started last December after Turkey sent firefighting planes to Israel, and further improved recently as the Prime Minister, Netanyahu sent a greeting message to the Prime Minister, Erdogan after his election victory, should be crowned by apology and compensation.

The geopolitics of the region, the wind of change in the Arab World, or the steps that Turkey will put forward for the end of its Kurdish conflict, all necessitates the normalization of the relations between the two countries. Yet, first, the tension should end. Even though Turkey and Israel are on different camps regarding the settlements of the Palestine conflict, the relations should still normalize.

Whether we like it or not, Turkey needs the support of the Israeli lobby. This support is even necessary in terms of preventing any wrong and perverted narrative of Turkey in the Unites States, together with its experiences or the unique model that it has established. Besides, let us not forget that the normalization of the relations with Israel do not necessarily propose any change in terms of our standing on the Palestine conflict.

The only thing that is to change will be the method. For the settlement of the conflict, we will approach with wisdom and common sense – as we did previously – and not with tension. While Mahmud Abbas prioritize diplomacy in his approach to Israel in regard to the settlement of the conflict, we surely cannot think of a Turkey that has not chosen to negotiate. Turkey should also get in touch with Israel, and make an effort for the settlement of the problems in its region.

Yes, it is true that Israel has bloody hands. Just like the fact that they killed our citizens in open sea, or the fact that they have to apologize. Yet, who is there without bloody hands? Did we break up our relations with the U.S. after its interventions in Iraq or in Libya? Has Russia acted any different in Chechnya? Have Germans and French killed each other in any less amounts?

I am not writing these in order to minimize the significance of the Mavi Marmara incident or to demonstrate the 2008 Gaza Intervention as legitimate. I would like to emphasize the fact what we have lived through were not experiences that were exclusive to Turkey. I have no doubt on Turkey’s rightfulness, or the illegitimacy of embargo that has been enforced on Gaza. Although I do not embrace the attitudes of some Mavi Marmara passengers, I know that there is a given fact of unproportional, timeless and inappropriate use of force. However, as much as picking a war, or managing a crisis, I realize that peace making and reconciliation are some other political methods that need to be considered. If I wished, I could also line up hundreds of injustices that Israel did on tens of different topics – as some writers do so - and hence further increase the hatred that you have towards this country. I am confident that not only you would enjoy such an article better, but also you would appreciate me the more so. However, some should address to the wisdom and not to the emotions, and put forward the different realities.

* Alon Liel & Can Yirik; Türkiye-Israil Ilişkileri: 1949-2010 (Istanbul Kültür Üniversitesi Yayinlari, 2010).


This article was first published in Turkish by the daily Star. To read the article in Turkish on the website of the original source, click here.

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