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."
It goes both ways. Business between Israel and Jordan has been a growing phenomenon. But it obviously has not reached these professional associations in Jordan yet. Also, the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism issued a statement asking Israeli tourists coming to Jordan not to wear "Jewish dress." What has Jordan's Minister of Tourism been watching "Fiddler on the Roof?" These all are pretty prejudices that need to be broken down. Prejudices that both Jews and Arab have for each other, are as deep rooted as it was in the United States between black and white. The Civil Rights Act become law in 1964, but how long did it actually take for black-white prejudice to be broken down?
The Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party hope to reach a peace deal by Nowruz on March 21st. I will drink a cup of chai to that. If the Turks and Kurds can do it, then so can the Israelis and Palestinians. But Mousa Abu Marzook said that Hamas will recognize the pre-1967 borders, but not what is beyond it. To bad Obama cannot have a meeting with him, to think differently.
Israel and Turkey were having joint naval maneuvers together during the 1990's, long after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. This was alarming Syria when this was done. But now Prime Minister Erdogan wants peace with the Kurds -- another Muslim people. In fact, he was quoted as saying he "would drink poison to have peace with the Kurds." Peace between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, is going to be as difficult to nail down as Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Kurds are hoping to reach a peace deal with the Turkish Government by Nowruz -- March 21st. The only thing I can say is if that happens, then it will definitely be a Happy Nowruz.
Very important progress. I hope that things will get better between Turkey and Israel. It is a very good start.
Israeli exports to Turkey will reach U.S. $5 billion dollars this year. Turkey will be surpassing Canada, in the amount that Israel exports to. A great deal of this will be due to Turkey requesting to be a customer of Israeli natural gas out of Israel's share of the Tamar natural gas fields. So the increased trade between the two nations, will help to foster better relations. When I was at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2006, I saw a great deal of Turkish tourists coming in there. So hopefully, tourism between the two countries will return to previous levels. There is no reason why relations between Israel and Turkey cannot return back to pre-2010 levels. Both nations have some tough nuts to crack. Turkey has cracked on of them, by establishing peace with the Kurds. But the toughest nut for both of them, is Israel to be able to establish peace with the Palestinians, and for Turkey to go back into its past and admit to the Armenian Genocide. At a luncheon one time to the Turkish ambassador to the United States, I brought that up, and the man about grabbed me by the throat. But with all of the archives I have gone though in Washington, D.C., London, and Jerusalem, I could not just sit there and not say anything. It is like Israel establishing peace with the Palestinians, with what I have seen in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, I just cannot say nothing.
The Turkish newspaper "Radika" just published a poll that was conducted in the city of Adana. In this poll, 70% of all teachers and students strongly believe that if given the opportunity, that Jews, Armenians, and Greeks could hurt the country.
This discussion is recommended in today's recommendations: http://mepeace.org/profiles/blogs/mepeace-recommendations-april-19
In light recent developments - what has changed?
Personally, I am seeing changes in the Turkish press. I am seeing it become more open. "Zaman" a daily newspaper in Turkey, had an article about a women's bureau of the ruling Justice and Development Party, putting up a large in sign in Hebrew, claiming they have always been welcoming to Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. I responded back to the newspaper, saying Turkey has something to gain by having good relations with Israel and Greece. I also mentioned that Turkey can clears its conscience by admitting to the Armenian Genocide of World War I. For "Zaman" published it on-line. The first time I had mentioned the Armenian Genocide to a Turkish publication, and they printed it. As for relations with Israel, Israeli exports to Turkey this year will be a record U.S. $5 billion dollars worth, and tourism is starting to return back to the pre-2011 levels. The next move with be if the Turkish and Israeli navies can do joint maneuvers again. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called upon Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, but it is hoped that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can do the same, especially on his upcoming trip to Gaza. "The Times of Israel" had a story on the revitalization of a Ladino publication in Istanbul. This is symbolic to me, because my mother spoke Ladino when she was growing up. So it has not been in vain, it seems that Israeli-Turkish relations are indeed getting past the strain. I am not sure yet, how smooth the peace talks are going on between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party. A cease-fire is in effect, but has civil liberties been enacted yet, in regards to using Kurdish in education and media, and has the ban has been lifted on outlawed Kurdish political parties. The Kurds are no longer aspiring for an independent country, but want to see some type of federation. But the big question is can the Turkish Government and Kurdistan Workers' Party peace negotiations lend themselves to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations? I hope they can, and I hope Turkey will prove itself strong by admitting to the Armenian Genocide. Hopefully, you can be more and precise information from our representatives from the Turkish media here.
Ynet Publication just revealed that Israeli tourism to Turkey is up by 86% this year, with a record number of 56,000 Israeli tourists visiting Turkey. So relations are starting to heal.