Top Turkish officials: Rapid steps to restore Turkey-Israel ties to commence in coming days

The past few days have been good to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. On Thursday, a domestic rival, Abbdullah Ojalan, leader of the separatist Kurds, announced a historic ceasefire, and on Friday his demands from his bitter rival Benjamin Netanyahu were conceded entirely. The precise wording of the apology, the precise phrasings that diplomats, negotiators, and presidential advisors have been laboring on for years aren’t really important. The outcome was one: Israel has apologized, and has agreed to pay compensation and take steps towards lifting the siege on Gaza.

The public enmity with Israel played well into Erdogan’s hands, who meanwhile tightened his ties with Syria’s Bashar Assad and the regime in Iran. When the uprisings of the Arab Spring unraveled, he became a hero who, despite opposing intervention in Libya – largely due to Turkey’s immense investments in the country – supported the new government there, urged Egypt’s Mubarak to resign and then quickly fostered a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime. His shaky relationship with Jerusalem added considerable weight to his legitimacy in the Arab world, which has traditionally been suspicious of Turkey because it isn’t an Arab state and due to its close ties with Israel. Just months after the uprising began in Syria, Erdogan changed his attitude toward Assad as well. After making efforts to try and persuade Assad to carry out reforms, Erdogan realized that his personal relationship with Assad would not help him bring about changes in Syria. All of a sudden, Assad was transformed into a bitter enemy who needed to be removed, and Erdogan decided that Turkey would become a rear base for the Syrian opposition. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey now became the new axis driving events in the Middle East, with Turkey as the anchor for American policy vis-à-vis Syria, Iraq and even Iran, with which Turkey maintains widespread commercial ties despite the sanctions, having received a partial exemption.

Senior Turkish officials told Haaretz that the restoration of relations will commence over the next few days, taking place rapidly but cautiously. The staff at the embassy in Tel Aviv will be augmented, and a new ambassador may be appointed in the next few weeks. Visits by senior Turkish officials will then follow, possibly including one by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davetoglu. A more important issue is the restoration of the friendly atmosphere between the Israeli and Turkish people. Erdogan has proven before that he can create an atmosphere of national animosity as well as national reconciliation, as attested to by his transformation of public sentiment regarding conciliation with the Kurds. One would hope that he will use his charisma and talent with regard to relations with Israel as well. A positive public stance is now also required of Prime Minister Netanyahu, putting aside nitpicking accounts of gains and losses while embracing the renewal of relations.

Full article: Top Turkish officials: Rapid steps to restore Turkey-Israel ties to commence in coming days (Haaretz)

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