After years of a hostile political relationship, Israel and Turkey have decided to restore diplomatic relations, apparently on the following bases:
- Having already apologized to Turkey for the passengers on the Turkish blockade runner Mavi Marmara who were killed by Israeli commandos, Israel will now pay $20,000,000 compensation to their families.
- Turkey will not permit Hamas attacks to be planned and supervised from its territory but it will not expel Hamas operatives.
- Turkey will build a power plant, desalinization plant and hospital in Gaza
- Israel will permit Turkey to send unlimited shipments of goods to Gaza through the port of Ashdod.
- Israel and Turkey will begin to discuss the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey.
If the above list accurately represents the main clauses of the deal, and assuming there are no secret protocols, it is hard to imagine any positive results whatsoever for Israel from such a “deal”, beyond the bare fact of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which, of course, can be cut off again by Turkey at any time.
On the assumption that the explanation given by the IDF, ever since the boarding of the Turkey vessel, which was trying to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza, namely that the commandos were attacked first and defended themselves, which led to several deaths, it is hard to justify either an apology (which has already taken place) or the payment of compensation to the families of the perpetrators. Both constitute an admission of guilt, while the government continues to maintain that the action was one of self-defense.
It is difficult to imagine how a ban on Hamas operatives planning and supervising an attack on Israel from Gaza will be enforced, even if the Turkish intelligence and security agencies really want to do so. It is equally difficult to imagine why it will make any difference, since planning and supervision can take place from anywhere, especially inside Gaza.
It is almost inevitable that once the Turkish facilities are built in Gaza, they will be used by Hamas as command and control centers in case of another outbreak of open hostilities between Hamas and Israel. Israel will be constrained from attacking them precisely because they were built by Turkey and that would make a renewed rupture of relations very likely.
There are grave doubts that a gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey makes commercial sense, and if extended to Europe it will compete with a similar project between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, countries with which Israel is engaged in improving relations. Also, Erdogan has just apologized to Russia for the downing by the Turkish Air Force of a Russian fighter plane and offered reparations. As a result relations between Russia and Turkey should improve markedly and Turkey will be able to depend on Russian gas again.
There are other considerations that would indicate that this “deal” is unnecessary and indeed harmful:
Trade between Turkey and Israel has continued at a high level during the whole period between the boarding of the Mavi Marmara and the present, so it would appear unlikely that simply restoring diplomatic relations would improve economic relations to any substantial extent except for tourism, which is entirely a net gain for Turkey since very few Turkish citizens visit Israel.
The “deal” will be seen by the Kurds of Turkey, Syria and Iraq as a betrayal. The Kurds are among the best friends Israel has in the Middle East and have shown themselves to be effective fighters against Islamic State (IS).
On balance, again in the presumed absence of any secret side agreements, the terms of the diplomatic rapprochement between Israel and Turkey would seem to be if anything worse than the deal with Iran negotiated by the US and other countries concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons plans, which was so vehemently opposed by the current Israeli government.
This article was originally published by Globes.