After six years of battered relationship, Turkey and Israel have signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations and to develop strong commercial ties.
Neither partner got 100% of what each one wanted. Turkey has refused to break ties with Hamas or to expel Hamas terrorists from its territory and Israel has refused to lift the decades-old blockade of the Gaza Strip.
What both did receive is beneficial to both countries. Turkey will buy natural gas from Israel and Israeli tourists will flock by the thousands to the bazaars in Turkey. Economically, both sides will be pleased.
Nevertheless, there is a big controversy in Israel over Netanyahu’s decision to sign the agreement. His Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman and members of his Cabinet and Knesset are vehemently opposed to the deal.
As a large Muslim country, Turkey’s restoration of ties with Israel may advance peace talks with neighboring Arab countries. But the deal comes at a heavy price. Israel has agreed to pay 20 million dollars to the families of the victims of the Turkish flotilla’s attempt to break the blockade of Gaza.
Is this a precedent that from now on Israel will be required to pay restitution or compensation to families of terrorist victims? If so, it is a dangerous precedent.
Turkish shopkeepers are delighted that Israeli tourists, once Turkey’s largest tourist group, will now return to the markets of Istanbul and Anatolia. One sign in a shop window read: “Welcome back, Israelis. We love you. We have missed you. Come in for the best deal”.
As long as Erdogan remains the dictatorial president of Turkey, one’s trust in the accord must be carefully scrutinized. “Chabdehu v’chashdehu”… respect and suspect… must be Israel’s watchword.
The Turks are not always reliable and often do not keep their word. Every aspect of the signed agreement must be examined under a microscope and a magnifying glass.
Little wonder that so many thousands of ordinary Israeli citizens and high-ranking members of Netanyahu’s government have raised loud voices in protest of the agreement.
Still, it was a wise decision to restore diplomatic and commercial ties with Turkey. It will bolster our economy and will open doors to future considerations with some Arab countries, specifically with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
While Hamas will not be expelled from Turkey, the Turks have “promised” to forbid any anti-Israel terrorist attempts from their territory. If the promise was made with crossed fingers remains to be seen.
An historic agreement has been signed. But there is no love affair between the two countries. No romance.
Just national business as usual. The Turkish shopkeepers will profess eagerly their “love” for the returning thousands of Israeli tourists. Better prices. Better deals. Better bargains for the Israelis.
But no love.