Anat Lapidot-Firilla Ilker Ayturk

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Anat Lapidot-Firilla Ilker Ayturk


Anat Lapidot-Firilla                Ilker Ayturk

What has the Israel-Turkey alliance been based on?

There was a very close              Turkey's ties to Israel are pegged
collaboration between Israel and    to Israel's relationship with the
Turkey from 1995/1996 until today.  Arab world and the Palestinians.
It started after the Madrid         The Oslo process convinced the
Conference and became stronger      Turkish government then that
after the Oslo Accords. Until       further cooperation with Israel
then, we didn't have a Turkish      would not alienate the Arab-Muslim
ambassador here. The reason for     world. The 1990s also witnessed a
the upgrade had nothing to do with  flare-up in the conflict between
Israel specifically or the          the Turkish military and the
Palestinians but was about          Kurdish separatist movement, PKK,
strengthening Turkish ties to the   whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan,
United States, which was seen as    resided in Damascus. The Turkish
the only superpower after the fall  leadership increased pressure on
of the Soviet Union and the only    the Syrians by establishing an
state with anything to say in this  alliance with Israel. Moreover,
region. Turkey really wanted to     there has always been considerable
improve relations with the United   sympathy for Israel among secular
States, and Israel was seen as a    lurks, particularly among die
channel to the United States.       staunchly secular military.
Another reason for the alliance     Israelis are admired for their
has to do with the Israeli need to  military, economic and
sell security-related technology    technological prowess, for
and knowledge and the Turkish need  surviving astonishingly in a nasty
to acquire those technologies.      neighborhood and for being a
                                    successful example of non-western
                                    modernization.

What are the deeper reasons behind the decline of the relationship?

At the end of the 19th and into     Most of the factors which made the
the 20th century, Turkey was the    Israeli-Turkish alliance possible
Ottoman Empire and possessed vast   in the 1990s disappeared one by
territory in Europe and the Middle  one after 2000. First, the failure
East. But it emerged from World     of the Camp David talks in that
War I with only Anatolia. With its  year and the uncontrollable
return to the Balkans as part of    deterioration of
NATO in 1999, a revival of          Israeli-Palestinian relations in
ethno-politics led Turkey to        the aftermath of the Second
devise what are called neo-Ottoman  Intifada made Turkish leaders
policies. Many in Turkey feel       extremely sensitive to Arab-Muslim
today that Turkey can play the      public opinion. Under those
role that it played in the past.    circumstances, Turkish
In order to position itself as a    policymakers perceived their ties
regional power, Turkey must push    with Israel as a burden and a
aside Israel and establish          source of embarrassment. Second,
credibility in the Arab world.      while the Israeli-Turkish alliance
Secondly, a serious social and      squeezed Syria into submission and
cultural battle between             succeeded in eliminating Syria's
secularists and the religious in    PKK card, the very success of this
Turkey has become a foreign policy  alliance ironically removed a
battleground, since the Turkish     building block of the alliance
constitution demands separation     itself. Finally, electoral
between politics and religion in    victories of the AKP government in
internal affairs. It's a political  Turkey after 2002 signaled a
issue: The Justice and Development  gradual shift of power from the
Party's strategy has been to        secular military to a
connect Israeli policies on         conservative, mildly Islamist
Palestinians to the policies of     elite, which adopted a pragmatic
the secular old elite. … 

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