Under the changing conditions of the international and regional systems, new partnerships naturally would fruit. With the slow but noisy withdrawal of the US, regional order became a hot topic to discuss. In its latest move, the Afghanistan case showed that American power is waning, has not enough sources & willingness to operate in secondary regions according to its national security agenda. Like Afghanistan, the Middle East has also been a secondary region for American power for a while. In fact, the US retreat has continued nearly the last four terms of American presidents, even which may be dated to the declaration of Iraqi withdrawal (2007). Many articles have been written to highlight the issue up to now. The main question remains: What comes next? One option has been ignored in almost every piece: Turkish-Israeli cooperation.
Nowadays, Turkey and Israel have a chance for a fresh restart. During the second round of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in summer 2020, a concrete opportunity surfaced. Azerbaijani army, with the long-term support of Turkish and Israeli counterparts, overwhelmed the Armenian troops and liberated the long-standing occupied territories of Azerbaijan. This situation revealed a basic rule of international politics: if the interests are similar, cooperation would be possible.
In this case, the Iranian threat to Azerbaijani national security and regional balance of power in the Caucasus was the determiner of such a cooperation. Turkey and Israel perceive a threat from Iran in the Middle East especially and so, both of them supported Azerbaijan to limit Iranian aggression. They succeeded together. Armenian statesmen repeatedly expressed their desire to have warm relations with Turkey. So, Turkish-Israeli cooperation caused Armenian retreat and also reduced Iranian influence. To be sure, this cooperation could not be limited to the Caucasus region.
However, Israeli policy towards the Greeks is an obstacle to improving Turkish-Israeli relations truly. In particular, the military drills and overall security cooperation amongst the Greeks and Israel harshly prevented the possibility of cooperation with the Turkish side. Whereas, with a close and critical glance at this partnership, one can easily notice that there is no meaningful gain for the Israeli part. Excepting the energy sector, especially the military drills angered the Turkish side and triggered a counter-balancing move militarily. Regrettably, today, the militarized view of the East Mediterranean region is the direct result of this quasi-alliance.
Israeli statesmen should not forget that the famed Davos summit crisis (2009) was partially a consequence of Israeli-Greek cooperation. In 2008, the first-ever military drill of Israel-Greece was done, namely the Glorious Spartan. At the time, it was publicly explained that this military drill was against the Iranian threat. However, Greece has never perceived a threat from Iran and so, there was only one option left: Turkey. Accordingly, Turkish-Israeli relations further deteriorated as long as the Israeli-Greek alliance matured.
Generally speaking, Turkey-Israel relations are based upon the threat perceptions and the balancing of these threats with each other throughout its history. Whenever one of them perceives a threat, a kind of rapprochement process becomes the main topic of both. This rule almost works in every case. Today, when President Erdoğan said that Turkey wants to have warmer relations with Israel in November 2020, was to balance the agenda of the new administration at the White House. This move also aimed to use Israeli links to reach American counterparts. However, all of the gestures shown by Erdoğan and his aides went to waste when the Biden administration started to position his country against Turkey in almost every file. In addition to the absence of direct presidential contact for a long while; the exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program, the S-400 crisis, recognition of Armenian “genocide” etc. caused the rapid deterioration of Turkish-American relations. In its latest attempt, Turkey offered to operate Kabul’s international airport in favor of US interests to mend bilateral ties. Though, this is not gonna work…
Lastly, President Erdoğan said that he is not pleased with the status of Turkey-US relations. This statement sounds like a new crisis…If Israeli statesmen seriously think of normalization and rapprochement with Turkey, the to-do list is very clear and there is not much time left…