IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan told a conference yesterday that relations with Turkey will remain problematic while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party remain in power.
There has been much speculation over the past several months that Israel and Turkey are on the verge of restoring diplomatic ties after a six-year hiatus. In 2010, the previously warm relationship between Israel and Turkey deteriorated and diplomatic relations were ceded after the deaths of ten Turkish citizens who were killed whilst trying to prevent Israeli commandos taking over a Gaza-bound protest ship, the Mavi Marmara. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since issued an apology and it is thought that a compensation deal for the families of those killed aboard the Mavi Marmara has been agreed.
However, a number of outstanding issues remain, which are thought to include Turkey’s demand for free access to the Gaza Strip and Israel’s demand that Hamas be expelled fully from Turkey. In particular, Israel’s ally Egypt has expressed reservations over allowing Turkey to play a role in the Gaza Strip. It is unclear how the renewal of Israel-Turkey diplomatic ties would affect both Israel’s close relationship with Egypt as well as burgeoning relations with Cyprus and Greece.
Yesterday, at a conference titled “The IDF’s current challenges” at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, Golan suggested that Israel’s relations with Turkey will always be difficult under the current administration in Ankara. He said, “As long as Turkey is ruled by a party with a strong Islamist orientation, by a ruler as adversarial as Erdogan, as long as this is the situation – we can expect problems and challenges.” Erdogan has long been criticised for authoritarian rule, while his AKP party is rooted in Islamic identity and has proved sympathetic to Islamist groups, including Hamas.
Although Israel should attempt to reduce tensions with Turkey, said Golan, “This is a complicated subject” and “should not lead us to extremes and undesirable corners.”