The outcome of the Israeli elections, signaling that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will again lead the government, will probably have no effect on Israeli-Turkish relations, which are likely to remain chilly. Neither side has any political incentive to change course.
Tulin Daloglu observes that the Israeli elections are unlikely to produce any change in Israeli-Turkish ties.
January 25 2013
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself better placed with his tough rhetorical line against Israel. However, he is attacked for actually conspiring with Jerusalem. Members of Turkey's opposition parties sometimes accuse his Justice and Development Party (AKP) of having a secret deal with the Jewish state. They claim Erdogan's tough rhetoric and feverish temper toward the Israeli state conceals the AKP's true intentions. "Why did you allow NATO to build a radar station in Kurecik?" asked Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition party (CHP), for example. "If you're really against Israel, you stop the radar operations in Kurecik. That's for Israel's security."
Faruk Logoglu, Kilicdaroglu’s foreign policy chief, told Al-Monitor that “It’s not that we have a fight with Israel, or that we’re against Turkey cooperating with NATO to strengthen Israel’s security needs in the region. What we try to emphasize is that Prime Minister Erdogan is not honest with either the Parliament or the public as to why this radar system has been built in Kurecik.”
Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid's leader and a well-known former journalist, is rumored to be in the mix for a big cabinet position, perhaps foreign minister. Even if Lapid actually decides to enter the coalition government with Netanyahu and becomes the next Israeli foreign minister, his secular and liberal approach does not mean that he will take the first flight to Ankara to deliver a personal "apology" to Erdogan for the deaths of nine Turks in May 2010 on the Mavi Marmara flotilla off the coast of Gaza. To the contrary, Lapid sounds no different when it comes to issues directly concerning Israel's security and he has made no comments so far — publicly — as to what he thinks about the Mavi Marmara incident or relations with Turkey.
US President Barack Obama seems poised to send his next secretary of state, former Senator John Kerry, to jump start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Just three years ago, we might have expected Ankara to be a potential broker in a regional peace initiative. But Turkey's foreign policy today has made it impossible for Ankara to play a mediator role for key issues that matter to regional security and stability.
Finally, given that the region's transformation is still incomplete from Tunisia to Egypt, and Libya to Yemen, as well as the uncertainty of the fate of Syria, neither side seems to be in a rush to normalize the relations.
In short, there is no reason to expect a new Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv in the next two years, at least, but perhaps the whole new dynamic in the Israeli Knesset may open new opportunities to slightly warm up the relationship or at least help to put in guard rails to prevent it from getting worse. If so, Turkey's opposition will have a new chance to show whether they are really alike or different from the AKP when it comes to considering Israel as an "unfriendly" state.
Tulin Daloglu is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has written extensively for various Turkish and American publications, including The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Middle East Times, Foreign Policy, The Daily Star (Lebanon) and the SAIS Turkey Analyst Report.