Elvin Refaelov

Turkey-Israel a new era in relations – is it true?

For many of the Israeli public, Turkey is not considered an enemy, the opposite is true. Every month, the Istanbul-Tel Aviv route, which operates more than 20 weekly flights, transports close to 100,000 passengers with Israeli passports at its peak, with the Turkish airline “TURKISH AIRLINES” being the foreign airline with the highest number of passengers at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. About 12 percent of the monthly traffic at the airport is to Turkey, which dominates the list of destinations handily.

With the transformation of Turkey in recent years into a tourist destination that causes the Turkish economy to prosper, and this after in recent years the Israelis discovered Istanbul after over the years Antalya was their favorite destination for their summer vacation. More and more Israelis are discovering Istanbul and even returning to it several times a year, if you ask the workers of the tourism industry and the local markets they will tell you that the Israelis are their most loyal and best customers.

32 Best Things to Do in Istanbul Right Now
Istanbul, turkiye

Putting tourism aside, thanks to the free trade zone agreement between Israel and Turkey, the economy between the countries is thriving. Only last July was Israel’s first economic attachment to the country opened in Istanbul, and this after the visit of the Israeli economy minister to the country.
The volume of trade from Turkey to Israel in 2021 was about 71%, the volume of imports from Turkey to Israel in 2021 was about 4.76 billion dollars and these figures only increase from year to year. From food to toiletries and clothes, the Israeli shoppers storm the Turkish market and import a considerable amount of consumer goods from there.

Orna Barbivay אורנה ברביבאי on Twitter: "בתום ביקור של יומיים בטורקיה, בהם זרענו הזדמנויות כלכליות לטובת שתי המדינות אני יודעת להגיד שפירות שיתוף הפעולה כבר כאן. @IsraelinTurkey @IsraEconomy" / Twitter
Israel’s Economy Minister Orna Barnibai during her visit to Turkey last year

on the other hand? Why is Israel still seen as an enemy in the eyes of the Turkish public? Why did the phrase “a Jew cannot be a friend” become common among the Turkish population? Who cares about inciting the Turkish public on one side and at the same time fostering and strengthening under the surface the relationship with the State of Israel?
This is of course Erdoğan’s Turkey, the one who in the past often expressed anti-Semitic statements towards Jews as early as his youth and believes with all his soul in Muslim supremacy, some would say that he is almost the complete opposite of Kemal Pasha Atatürk, the father of the Turkish nation who is also the symbol of Turkey’s secularism.

Erdogan is trying to create a consciousness of “strong Islam” when he creates a coalition for himself that consists of Islamic countries such as Qatar, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and when he maintains a close relationship with the secular Azerbaijan on his border. The dream as he describes it is to return Turkey to its greatness, to return the “Ottoman Empire“, even if it costs him an economic crisis and inflation among the highest in the world, with a high unemployment rate and starvation wages and full orphanages, accepting refugees from Syria and other countries that increase the rate of violence and theft in Turkey, as well as a cordial relationship with Iran, which massacres regime opponents and openly threatens the State of Israel and the United States.

חמינאי וארדואן נפגשו: "ארה"ב תומכת בכורדים כדי להקים ישראל חדשה"
President Erdogan with Iran’s Supreme leader Khamenei

Erdogan wants to instill in the Turkish public the supremacy of Islam and tries to preserve the religion as much as possible, he does this through extensive control of the media in the country, you will not see sexual content on any of the Turkish channels and series, not even a kiss, you will not hear criticism of the regime because the next day the journalist may risk going to jail . From time to time when he feels like it and he witnesses criticism, he closes access to social networks and Twitter in particular (a practice his friends in Iran taught him), he realizes that he has lost many parts of the public and he tries to control while creating an image in which Erdogan is the only patriot in the equation, the only one who sees “Turkey as the greatest of all” “.

the one hand, the desire to create an Islamic coalition and sever ties with the American Empire and the Zionist and Jewish State of Israel,

But Erdogan is not stupid, surrounded by dozens of political and economic advisors, he understands that he has to maintain relations with the State of Israel, the USA and Europe in order for his country to continue to exist, and this creates a conflict of interests for him. On the one hand, the desire to create an Islamic coalition and sever ties with the American Empire and the Zionist and Jewish State of Israel, and on the other hand the understanding that the State of Israel is able to contribute to Turkey’s economy and the quality of Turkey’s relations with the United States. Thus, for years, the Erdogan administration has followed a policy of excellent relations and agreements with the Israeli government below the surface and in public unconditional condemnation of Israel.

But the Israeli Foreign Ministry is not a sucker, under the direction of the last foreign ministers in recent years, Israel is putting more and more pressure on Turkey, telling it that in this game it will not allow itself to be humiliated. The result – fewer condemnations by Erdogan in public, fewer chants of “Israel is murderers” and instead of “the Turkish government calls for peace in the region”, suddenly we also hear about confusing phone calls between the two presidents. And the Turkish public does not understand what is happening, how the State of Israel, which was presented for years as a murderous enemy, is suddenly a partner and friend of Turkey?

In the earthquake that happened last month (February 23) in Turkey with a magnitude of 7.7 which claimed the lives of over 25 thousand Turkish citizens, the State of Israel sent the second largest delegation to Turkey among all the countries. About 450 military personnel from the rescue and rescue units of the Home Front Command and personnel from a field hospital. The Israeli expedition rescued about 19 people alive and was the most successful rescue expedition that operated in Turkey.

“Why has this very nice country been our enemy until today?”

The Turkish public went wild on social media and on Twitter mainly, tweets of “Is Israel really who we thought it was?“, “Why has this very nice country been our enemy until today?“, and exaggerated tweets such as “Jerusalem belongs to Israel“, on social media waves of sympathy for the Israeli delegation which for the first time showed the Turks the true face of the State of Israel and the true face of the Palestinians (who sent a rescue mission that numbered less than 20 people).

the IDF’s delegation to turkey

Erdogan understands day by day the significance of the relationship with Israel, he cuts ties with Hamas above the surface and does not allow them to operate on Turkish territory, and the Israeli intelligence organizations (the Mossad) have more freedom of action and cooperation with the Turkish intelligence agencies. Are we witnessing a new era in relations? Or the correct way to call it, will Erdogan take Israel-Turkey relations out of the closet? I mean in the public eye?

“Peace from strength”

“Peace from strength”, this was the title of Abraham’s agreements with the Arabs, a peace that puts aside the Palestinian issue and treats Israel as a country that plays a strong card in the Middle East. The Arabs and the Persians in particular have learned to understand that Israel is a country that is here to stay, and the Palestinians who engage in terrorism around the clock do not want to reach a solution to the conflict. These agreements were the ones that opened the window to deal publicly with Israel-Turkey relations. Hoping that we will soon see this progress in Israel-Saudi relations.

About the Author
Elvin Refaelov is a author of articles in the fields of diplomacy, military diplomacy and national security, where the expertise is in Israel's relations with the countries of Central Asia.
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