Israel had the closest relations in Dar al-Islam (The Abode of Islam) with Turkey, in fact the two countries did joint naval maneuvers with each other in the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast.  Until on May 31, 2010, when the "Mavi Marmara" a Turkish flagged ship was trying to run a blockade on Gaza, and ended up being stormed by Israeli commandos.  During this operation 10 civilians were killed, and Turkey protested over the brutality of this military operation.  Ankara withdrew its ambassador from Israel, and in September Israel's ambassador to Turkey was expelled.  The number of Turkish tourists to Israel, and Israeli tourists to Turkey dropped off.  It seemed as though the Israeli-Turkish love affair was dead.  But completely?  Several opposition Turkish lawmakers protested to Turkish Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan over this action, and thought it was too extreme.  But strangely enough Israeli-Turkish trade increased.  In 2011, Israel exported U.S. $4 billion dollars worth of commodities to Turkey, which exceeded what Israel exported to Canada.  In 2013, it is forecasted to be U.S. $5 billion dollars.  Turkey has exported U.S. $2.3 billion dollars worth of commodities to Israel, making Israel the sixth largest customer of Turkey.  But earlier in May 2010, Turkish President Abdullah Gul called upon Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, and has never retracted it.  Hamas did announce that they would recognize the pre-1967 borders though.  With the recently discovered Tamar natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey has requested being a customer for this Israeli natural gas.  But one thing that could pull Israel and Turkey closer together is that the Turkish Government announced that it will get into dialogue with the Kurdistan Workers' Party.  Sectarian violence between Turks and Kurds has taken 40,000 lives, and several key Kurdish opposition leaders are in Turkish prisons.  Abdullah Ocalan is one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and is currently serving a prison sentence on an island prison in the Marmara Sea (that name again, Marmara).  The Kurdistan Workers' Party originally was fighting for independence from Turkey, but they changed their campaign to be based on either autonomy or to make Turkey into a federation.  But most important of all, human rights for Kurds in Turkey, such as use of their language -- the Kurds speak two dialects in Turkey, Kurmanji and Zaza -- to be spoken openly in public, used in media and education.  Currently, Kurdish is allowed to be used in courtrooms, and in private schools.  Legalization of Kurdish political parties such as the Kurdistan Workers's Party and the Democratic Society Party, and granting amnesty to Kurdish lawmakers banned from politics.  It will be interesting to see how this dialogue between the Turkish Government and Kurdish renegades progresses, and if this progression can help resurrect the Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, which caused the Turkish-Israeli rift in the first place.  But if Turkey can progress on this, and Israelis and Palestinians can move forward with the Oslo Accords, then the relationship between Israel and Turkey will no longer be one of two nation-states meddling into each others affairs, but two nation-states that can say to each other "this is what we able to resolve and accomplish."

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Hi Tim,

You are always writing so nicely.

Couple of quick questions:

1. What was the height of Turkish-Israeli relations, what brough these two nations together, and what is different now ?

2. I can understand the Mavi incident would impact temporarily the relationship ( other relationship hiccups like this have happened between allies before) , but I am missing something. What is really going on ?

That is what Ehud Barak said as Defense Minister, that Israeli-Turkish relations would go back to the way they were, which looks like that is happening.  In 1996, Israel and Turkey signed a free trade agreement, which obviously has not be effected.  In 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Israel, with a large number of businessmen accompanying him.  But what has been affected is joint Israeli-Turkish military maneuvers, and Israel equipping and updating the Turkish military.  With NATO's sending Patriot missiles to Turkey, at first Turkey said it would not allow Israel is to a military observer to NATO's actions, then Erdogan changed his mind, and said Israel can be a military observer, but that Turkey and Israel would not engage in any joint military maneuvers.  Iran accused Turkey of posting those missiles to protect Israel, but a Patriot missile only has a range of 43 miles.  If Israel wants to be protected, it is best they post the Patriot missiles themselves, and not rely on distant Turkey.  As for the assassination of the 3 Kurdish women in Paris, who were to be a part of the peace talks between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, it is believed they may have been assassinated by Kurds who are oppose to them.  Just like Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli Jew, who was opposed to the Oslo Accords.  I have been commenting to the Turkish press about this, and see a lot of comments by Turks, who view Erdogan as a traitor for doing so.

Thanks again Tim,

You always shed light.

I was reading some articles on the Internet and came across an older one by Jacob Abadi that summarizes the earlier years of the relationship. I was interested to learn about Turkish recognition of Israel in 1948 and the generally positive relations .

The article can be found at I believe it identifies some of the subtle aspects of the early relationship.

In the '90's and early 2000's relations seemed to be moving in a closer direction in several areas-- political, trade, technology, and military.

It seems that the 2008 Gaza activity started relations going the other way , and the 2010 Mavi event was a real disaster in the long term relation. From what I read, some of this appears to be related to the personalities involved.

That being said, it seems that the Mavi incident was the catalyst to where we are now. Regardless of where one stands on how Isreal handled the Mavi ( and surely this can be debated ) , I am wondering how most countries would have reacted in a similar situation. It is a shame that the good relationship was so severely impacted, though understandable .

To repair relations is a good thing for both countries, given the state of the middle east. And Turkey can be a positive bridge to the Arab state , Muslim world, and the Palestinians.
Another link . This one from a Turkish newspaper..

Some more recent positions.

All ths being said, economic ties seem strong . .

The big question is, how can nations like Israel and Turkey find peace and coexistence?  When Golda Meir was Prime Minister, she said "the Palestinians do not exist."  You have to realize that when she was prime minister, Israel was not even incorporated into the political, economic, or cultural fabric of the Middle East.  Israel was just viewed as an outsider, or an intruder.  But slowly itty bitty steps at a time, Israel is slowing being accepted into the core of the Middle East.  Israel has contact with the Palestinian Authority, which used to be the Palestine Liberation Organization bent on its destruction.  Now the Palestinian Authority deals with Israel, but there is still Hamas, which claims to desire the destruction of Israel.  The goal now is to get Hamas to make that transition, which the Palestine LIberation Organization did.  Turkey for a long time, did not even refer to the Kurds as Kurds, but as Mountain Turks.  Someone could go to prison if they were caught speaking Kurdish.  Kurdish political organizations were outlawed, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Democratic Society Party.  It was even worst when Turkey was the Ottoman Empire, because there they strove to physically exterminate the Armenians.  Now Turkey is taking itty bitty steps at a time, starting to recognize its Kurdish minority, by getting into dialogue with the one-time outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, and slowing easing restrictions on use of the Kurdish language.  Both Israel and Turkey are at transition stages now, and they can assist each other in making those transitions.  Israel by finding peace and coexistence with the Palestinians, hopefully with the Palestinians as a nation-state, and Turkey with its Kurdish minority.  They gave up their desire for a nation-state, but instead want the civil liberties of using their language in public, media, and education, and to have their political parties legalized.  So it is to assist them both, and wish them both the best of luck in this challenging task.

From a Turkish peace activist ( via an isreali newspaper )

One perspective ---

I know her!  I have worked with several Turkish women, who are into ecumenical dialogue.  Which is the reason why I wrote up this discussion.  To talk about how Turkey is coming to terms with its Kurdish minority.  Now Israel needs to come to terms with the Palestinians.  But both these dialogues are severely threatened by extremists.  Were those 3 Kurdish women with the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Paris, shot to death by extremists?  That still has not be determined yet.  I know I have had Jewish extremists who want to dance around my head on a silver platter.

Turkish relationship was sour way before Marvi Mamara, it was since the Islamist rose to the governement, I wonder why.... Remember when Ardiwan walked off teh stage with Peres when he claimed the Israel routinely murders Palestinian children?  This was before any flotilla... Not to mention teh Flotilla came from the backing of teh same Islamic party, they decicded they wantedf to make a provication...

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads the Justice and Development Party, which has the majority of seats in the Turkish Parliament.  It is a center-right party, so is this the Islamist Party you are referring to?  Turkish President Abdullah Gul is also of this party, and used to lead it.  Before the Mavi Marmara incident he called upon Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, and has never retracted that statement.  Hamas did not recognize the State of Israel, but says it recognizes the pre-1967 borders.

The brotherhood between Israel and Turkey could only be based on faith; otherwise, it would be a very superficial explanation to tell them just to be brothers. Because they would ask for the reason why they should be brothers with one another. Because this brotherhood is based on our faith in the same prophets, in Abraham and Jacob, the same Paradise and the same Hereafter. Our brotherhood is based on this essential, the love we have for the same God. When these common values are not embraced, there is no binding ground for the people. This brotherhood will only be established on this basis of love for the King Mashiach because both of the communities are expecting him and paving the way for him. Other than this, there may be no alliance since people will not be able to find the reason for it. 

Ece - what are you talking about? The relationship was based on exactly the opposite, Turkey was a secular country that religion and heretige was not the most important issue.  If what you were saying were true Israel would be best friend with teh more Islamic states....

I will let Ece speak for herself.  But the potential is definitely there.  Shimon Peres said in the Israeli press, that Israel does not want peace with the Muslims.  With the comments I see in "The Times of Israel," I can see that as the case, because they are so horrendously misinformed about Muslims, not just Islam.  The goal of peace, is for people to understand each other, and came together.  Understanding Muslims does not leave Jews vulnerable to annihilation.  Actually, it goes hand in hand with Judaism, because of the need for a minyan in public prayer, and in public prayer you read the Siddur, and the Siddur says "You will love your fellow man, as though you will love yourself."  I can just get panned for saying this, because people will respond with "Someone comes after you with be knife, and you say 'you are to love your fellow man, as though you are to love yourself!"  Of course, it does not apply when Hamas is firing rockets into Israel.  But is that always going to be the relationship with Hamas?  Let us take it a step further, is that always going to be our relationship with Muslims?



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