News & Politics

Turkey and Israel Agree to Normalize Diplomatic Ties

MattiaATH (source: Shutterstock)

Israel and Turkey have agreed to normalize the ties between their two nations:

Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to begin restoring full diplomatic relations after years of deep freeze, Israeli officials said on Thursday. The two countries, once close regional allies, fell out after a deadly confrontation in 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

One of the goals of the agreement is to restore ambassadorial representation. Although Israel and Turkey were allies for decades, the friendly relationship between the two countries came to a violent halt when the Israeli navy boarded a Turkish ship that had tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010. Ten people on board the Mavi Marmara were killed.

Afterwards, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did everything in his power to insult the Jewish state, accusing Israel of “state terrorism,” and carrying out a “genocide” against Palestinians. Just last year, he vowed that diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey would not be restored as long he was in power.

Suddenly, however, all that has changed. On Monday, Erdoğan surprised everyone by saying that a rekindled friendship between the two nations would benefit the entire Middle East:

There is so much that we, Israel, Palestine and the region can gain from such a normalization process. The region is in need of this.

Israel clearly feels the same way:

An Israeli official said on Thursday that a preliminary agreement had been reached that foresees the full restoration of diplomatic links. As part of the deal, Israel is to establish a compensation fund to address the killing of 10 Turks by Israeli marines who stormed a pro-Palestinian activist ship, the Mavi Marmara, in 2010… The agreement was also said to include a Turkish promise to prevent senior Hamas operative Saleh Aruri from entering its territory.

Additionally, Turkey has reportedly agreed to drop all outstanding lawsuits against Israel for the deaths of the activists in exchange for a reported $20 million settlement fund, and the two countries will start talks on Israel exporting natural gas to Turkey.

News of the deal emerged hours after Netanyahu signed a major natural gas deal – with a consortium that includes US firm Noble Energy – aimed at tapping deposits below the Mediterranean.

Here is the real reason that Erdoğan has suddenly changed his position on Israel. As we reported earlier this week, Turkey is extremely dependent on Russia for its supply of natural gas. That’s a major problem for Ankara because Russian president Vladimir Putin seems to be preparing to one-sidedly end that relationship. If he does, the Turkish economy will be strangled to death. Unless, that is, the Russian gas can be replaced with gas from another country.

And that’s where Israel comes in. That country may be small, but it’s rich in natural gas. Only hours before the news of a deal between Turkey and Israel emerged, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a major natural gas deal to tap gas deposits below the Mediterranean Sea.

To Israel, then, this deal means it gets one of its old allies back and benefits economically at the same time. Meanwhile, Turkey also benefits because it’ll be less dependent on Russian gas and therefore less susceptible to Putin’s intimidation.