Some recent news has led to speculations of a new Israeli-Turkish process with some lessening of tensions. Actually there are no substantive steps taken by both sides. Turkey selected a Jewish singer to represent Turkey at the Eurovision song contest. The iconic holocaust documentary, Shoah, was screened on the Turkish state TV. Nevertheless, these events don’t mark a concrete policy change on Turkish-Israeli relations, nor signify a rapprochement between the two sides.
Yet it is apparent that relations between Turkey and Israel are not tense as they used to be.
For instance, Ankara noticed that the Jewish MP’s in France had rejected the bill criminalizing the Armenian genocide bill in the parliament.
Last week the Israeli foreign ministry prevented the attempt of Knesset to recognize the Armenian genocide.
In Washington the Jewish Lobby is not functioning as a part-time Turkish lobby as it used to, but it is not working against Turkey too. The lobby seems to have suspended its critical attitude toward Turkey after the flotilla affair. Netanyahu has banned his cabinet from responding to anything from Turkey while our prime minister has refrained from saying anything harsh since September. It seems that Turkey has softened its bellicose tone on this issue.
So what is going on? Is there a secret negotiation process? Not really. We haven’t shaken hands yet. But there is an unofficial bilateral non-aggression pact, rather than a full normalization process.
The US president Barack Obama asked Tayyip Erdogan not to exacerbate relations with Israel. In short Obama told Erdogan that he would strengthen his hand if the relations between Turkey and Israel remain stable. He made the same plea to Netanyahu, who is trying to mend fences with Turkey. As a result, languages have tuned down considerably on both sides.
However the secret negotiations between Israel and Turkey that started after the UN Investigation Panel was formed in August 2010 collapsed. Ankara continues to insist on apology and compensation for the flotilla attack. Moreover Ankara is confident because of its good relations with the US and the Arab Spring. That’s why it is not willing to make concessions on this issue.
Israel, though unwillingly, is ready for apology and compensation. Yet it expects something in return. Israel wants total renormalization of relations to levels of 1990s. Ankara is not ready to pay this price while there is no Palestine-Israel peace, there is the likelihood of an Israel attack on Iran and while Turkey’s image in the Arab street has peaked. Those who are trying to mediate are stuck in this vicious circle.