News / Middle East

Israeli Visit Another Sign of Thaw With Turkey

Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
x
Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
Reuters
An Israeli delegation will visit Turkey for the first time in three years next week in another sign of thawing relations since the United States brokered a breakthrough in March, but any further advancement in ties was expected to be incremental.

Israel apologized to Turkey over the killing of nine Turks in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla and the two agreed to normalize relations in phone calls arranged by President Barack Obama on his recent trip to Israel.

Brokering a rapprochement could bolster U.S. influence in the Middle East, help ease Israel's diplomatic isolation as it confronts the challenge of Iran's nuclear program and improve regional coordination over Syria's two-year-old civil war.
  
But for all the diplomatic flurry, there were no illusions on either side that the relationship would be patched up as fully as Washington might hope, at least not any time soon.

"The honeymoon period between Israel and Turkey is over,'' said Ufuk Ulutas from the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a think tank close to the Turkish government. "Even if Israel takes other steps beside the apology, the two countries will not return to the heyday of the 1990s.''
       
Monday's visit by the Israeli delegation, led by an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will focus on the question of compensation to the families of those killed by Israeli marines aboard the Mavi Marmara three years ago.

But that was always going to be the easy part.
       
Ankara set precise conditions for re-installing ambassadors and fully normalizing ties: an apology, compensation and Israel lifting its embargo on the Gaza Strip.

"We had three conditions and our view has not changed. Talk of Turkey ignoring the other two conditions after the apology is nothing but rumor and not a reflection of our position,'' an official close to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.
       
That leaves a resumption in ties hostage to Israeli policy towards the Palestinian enclave. Israel has made clear it did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of the reconciliation, saying days after the apology that it could clamp down even harder on the enclave if security is threatened.
       
Playing to the gallery

The reconciliation may have fallen well short of the end to the Gaza blockade which Erdogan had routinely insisted on, but mindful of elections next year in which he hopes to run for an empowered presidency, his ruling AK Party has nonetheless presented the episode as a decisive diplomatic victory.

Billboards thanking Erdogan for securing the apology sprang up around the capital Ankara within hours. Turkish media praised the prime minister for his "principled diplomacy'' and the "diplomatic coup'' that led to the Israeli "surrender."

"The AK Party is focusing on the apology for domestic policy use and trying to ignore other parts of the deal,'' said Cagri Erhan, a political science lecturer at Ankara University.
       
"The lifting of the blockade seems very unlikely and some families of victims are not ready to drop the legal case even if the compensation is paid,'' he said.
    
Survivors of the Mavi Marmara incident said this month the apology did not go far enough and vowed to pursue Israeli soldiers in court.
    
But so strong is the U.S. interest in a rapprochement - Secretary of State John Kerry described it as vital to regional stability - that there could be a resumption in intelligence sharing on issues, including Syria and Iran, behind the scenes.

With so many common concerns, both Turkey and Israel are eager to keep their relationships with Washington strong.
       
"There are huge interests here. The United States is a major player in this and it wants its allies to cooperate with it on first and foremost on Iran ... and Syria,'' senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio last month.
       
The prospect of a rapprochement has also piqued the interest of energy investors, who see potential for a radical change in the geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean, allowing newly discovered Israeli gas to be pumped to energy-hungry Turkey and on to other markets, undermining Russia's supply dominance.
       
"Everything depends on our ties with Israel,'' said a senior Turkish official, asking not to be named. "We can consider such a proposal if ties are restored. But until then, all such deals have to wait.''

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid