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Research Report

The Deterioration in Israeli-Turkish Relations and its International Ramifications

Efraim Inbar
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2011
Pages: 26

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. [iv]-[iv])
  4. (pp. 1-2)

    Tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem have escalated since Turkey harshly criticized Israel following its invasion of the Gaza Strip in December 2008 (Operation Cast Lead). The operation aimed to halt continuous missile attacks on Israel’s civilian population by Hamas. Soon after, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s outburst at Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009 indicated further cooling between the two powers.¹ Additionally, in October 2009 Turkey abruptly canceled Israel’s participation in the multinational “Anatolian Eagle” air exercise. This was followed by Turkish political leaders' severe criticism of Israeli policies. Subsequently, an inflammatory...

  5. (pp. 2-4)

    Turkey has a very important regional presence due to its mere size, geographical location and political history. For Israel, a state with a history of conflict with many of its Arab neighbors, good relations with Turkey, a country with a 99 percent Muslim demographic, has been one way to break free from regional isolation and minimize the religious dimension of its conflict with the Arabs. From the beginning of statehood, Jerusalem stressed the importance of good relations with Ankara. However, for a variety of political reasons, Turkey kept Israel at arm’s length. This dynamic changed with the end of the...

  6. (pp. 4-9)

    As international circumstances change and national interests are redefined as a result of new domestic preferences, cooler relations and even international divorce happens.⁹ While Israel has been consistent in its desire to maintain strong relations with Turkey, an important regional player, Turkey’s international and domestic environment has changed, leading to a new emphasis on its foreign policy. The contours of the new Turkish foreign policy indicate a propensity to distance itself from the West and a quest for enhanced relations with Muslim countries, particularly those located along Turkey’s borders. Turkey also aspires to acquire a more prominent international status.


  7. (pp. 10-13)

    The reorientation in Turkish foreign policy is the result of a mix of foreign and domestic influences. The first factor explaining the change is the significant improvement in Turkey’s strategic environment. Immediately after the end of the Cold War, Turkey feared threats from all directions, but these eventually dissipated. The fear of war with Greece in the mid-1990s ended as the two countries upgraded their relations and a new positive atmosphere was created.34 As well, since the October 1998 Turkish threat to use force against Syria, Damascus has complied with Turkish demands to stop supporting the Kurdish insurgency and cease...

  8. (pp. 13-17)

    Turkey’s geographical location and size bestows on the country significant strategic importance. Indeed, Turkey carries great regional and international weight. Diverging from the West has serious consequences for the balance of power in the Greater Middle East and for global politics. Currently, the Middle East is divided between ascending Islamic Iran and its radical allies, and pro-Western moderate forces – Israel and most Arab states. Until recently, Turkey appeared to belong to the pro-Western camp, but it crossed the Rubicon when Erdogan visited Iran in October 2009. Turkey sided with Iran on the nuclear issue when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu,...

  9. (pp. 17-18)

    Turkey’s foreign policy has significantly changed. It would be very difficult for Israel to continue with a "business as usual" attitude in light of the current AKP-driven Turkish behavior. Jerusalem is unlikely to accept Ankara as a mediator in its disputes with Syria and the Palestinians. In all probability, arms sales and strategic cooperation will no longer be possible, while diplomatic and economic relations will only marginally be affected. Turkey understands that its regional aspirations require a certain level of diplomatic relations with Israel, an important player in the Middle East. Jerusalem still wonders why Ankara prefers the dictators of...

  10. (pp. 19-22)