Turkey-Israel relations are ok, but what about Palestine? Will it be normalized?

There are developments regarding Turkey-Israel relations as the steps have been taken towards normalization. After the Mavi Marmara attack in 2010,relations between the two countries were lowered to the second secretary level which is the lowest diplomatic level. However, in the 6-year period,regional and global conjuncture has changed; making the two countries reconsider the relations with each other.

In March 2013, with Obama’s initiative, Netanyahu called Erdogan to apologize, and then negotiations on compensation for the deaths of the activists in Mavi Marmara attack started. Specifically looking at the year 2013, it can be seen that the two countries were not in a hurry unlike today. The year 2013 was the year in which the Arab Spring began to fade and the civil wars became evident with the counter-revolutionary movements. However, the threats to national security of both countries today are much more immediate: Iran’s integration to international system, increase in its regional legitimacy and its active position in the civil wars in the region; Russia’s presence in Syria and the Turkey-Russia tensions rising after Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane, ISIS’s presence and the new geopolitics it has created; PYD which began to gain recognition internationally due to its fight against ISIS, and is trying to form a Kurdish belt along Turkey’s southern border and becoming a threat to Turkmen in the region; and finally reluctance of USA which may be the determinant of the level of activity of all these elements. Among all of these threats, Russia has a special importance. The cooling of relations between Turkey and Israel corresponds to the process in which Turkey’s relations with Russia has been tense. This is an explanatory timing. It is most probably that Turkey’s threshold of tolerance to regional tensions has been determined by its relations with Russia. Moreover, Israel’s foreign policy preferences such as its relations on the basis of Greece-Southern Cyprus, its positive approach towards the claim for independence of Kurds in Northern Iraq might have led Turkey to reproach Israel in order to control it. The existence of the elements which are perceived as common threat also presents a discursive support. However, the indexing of this process of approaching to Turkey’s “natural gas need” seems like a tool for persuasion of society on the discursive level. Neutralizing of Israel’s “cursed” status in the public memory through “natural gas, the basic need”reminds of public relations study for a country that meets its immediate energy needs through Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Qatar.

What about Palestine?
The Palestinian question is related to the Cold War era. It is a problem which is on the agenda for decades and which has not been resolved, yet. Is it possible that fixing Turkey-Israel relations can bring about positive results for the Palestinian question? This depends on where we look at.

If the Palestinian question is primarily the human tragedy in Gaza for you, then the answer is yes. The normalization of the relations between two countries seems like it will provide an opportunity for extra action for Turkey in Gaza. It is possible that humanitarian aid, reconstruction activities and so on can be carried out here through various state bodies. Strategic isolation which Hamas realized in the process of Arab Spring as an ideological branch of Muslim Brotherhood has also affected Gaza’s fate. Terrorization of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gulf monarchies has brought about negative outcomes with regards to Hamas. Turkey’s concern for Gaza has almost never declined even in this process of isolation. However, with the diplomatic activity that it began recently, Hamas tries to repair its relations with the countries which it has been at odds with, particularly Egypt. It is uncertain whether it will be successful but even normalization of Turkey-Israel relations itself can provide a relief for Gaza. Can Israel attack Gaza again? The answer is yes. A country which embraces its national security on the obsessional level can sortie hundreds of times for the missiles falling open area.

If the Palestinian question is primarily about the occupied territories for you, then the answer is no. The West Bankhas still been under occupation since Israel captured it during the Six-Day War in 1967. Likewise,East Jerusalem was unified with West Jerusalem with a law enacted in 1980 (there is no constitution in Israel), and it has been secured as Israel’s eternal capital. There has been no change in terms of reality in the field from that time to today. The Oslo Accords agreed in 1990s is already labeled as ‘dead’. Although Palestine administration in Ramallah focuses on diplomatic efforts with the leadership of Mahmud Abbas, there is no return in reality for the gains it will acquire. Israel’s call for negotiation to Abbas administration recently can be seen as a request from the countries which share axis with Israel. The status which was gained at the end of the year 2012 in the presence of the United Nations does not constrain Israel actually. The call for a global campaign of boycotts against Israel, which is called as “BDS Movement” can be used as a trump for making Israel come to the table rather than resolving the problem. However, it is not a strong trump. The resolution process, which was maintained with the efforts of international community, has become completely invisible today. The Palestinian issue is no more the most disturbing issue for the international community. The issues such as ISIS, Assad regime, Syrian civil war, Yemen civil war, aggression of Iran and Russia’s moves have caused the loss of Palestine’s priority. Besides, in today’s conjuncture, Israel is in close relations with Sunni countries, especially with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. All the countries that can force Israel in regional terms and keep the problem on the agenda are in the same position with Israel. It seems like Turkey is also going towards this direction. The common regional threats lead countries to ignore their problems. Turkey should firstmake a good perception management regarding the Palestinian question. In this sense, it should be kept in mind that Mavi Marmara incident has been perceived as a provocation by Israel. Another important question is that whether we look out for Palestine issue or Hamas itself. If we do not manage these perceptions well, we will be seen as we make preference among the actors of the Palestinian question. Finally, we shouldnot spare our discourse of political legitimacy in foreign policy from Palestinians. The autonomous structure in Gaza and the Ramallah administration may even have forgotten how elections were conducted.

*This translated essay first appeared on Karar News in Turkish.

About the Author
IR Researcher, studying Israeli politics and Security Studies.
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