Bank of Israel Head Best Man to Fix Israeli-Turkish Relations

Article Summary
Stanley Fischer, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, can serve as a mediator between Israel and Turkey and patch up the strained relations between the two countries, writes David Lipkin. Fischer, more than anyone else, stands a chance of succeeding where the politicians have failed.

The state comptroller's highly-critical report on Israel's failed handling of the [May 2010] Turkish Flotilla has been all but forgotten by now. However, given the once close alliance between Israel and Turkey, Israel should not let up on the efforts to patch up its strained relations with Turkey [which have seriously deteriorated following the IDF raid on the flotilla on May 31, 2010]. The reconciliation efforts made in the past two years have all come to naught, having been met with adamant Turkish refusal to strike a compromise.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview to the Israeli daily Maariv [Tuesday, June 5, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) regional summit in Istanbul] that there would be no thawing of relations as long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comply with his three requests: an official Israeli apology for the events on the [Turkish ship MV Mavi] Marmara [in the course of which nine activists were killed and many others wounded], payment of adequate reparations to the families of the nine Turkish citizens killed [in the IDF raid on the Marmara] and lifting the blockade on Gaza. The Turkish Prime Minister clarified that his country would not compromise on those conditions [even if the crisis between the two nations deepened], noting [with reference to the Israeli tourists’ boycott of Turkey] that Turkey could do without the Israeli tourists.

In talks I held with senior Turkish cabinet members at the recent regional summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) [held earlier this month in Istanbul], they expressed their interest in restoring relations with Israel and intimated that Israel should make a gesture to placate Erdoğan and secure his consent to thaw relations and re-establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.

It should be noted that notwithstanding the cold attitude displayed by Erdoğan with respect to Israel and the Turkish freeze on [joint Israeli-Turkish] security ventures, the close economic ties between the two countries have been maintained uninterrupted all along. Indeed, over the past year (2011), the trade between Israel and Turkey increased by 30.7 percent. What's more, the Turkish economic leadership holds Stanley Fischer, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, in high esteem. Some of its senior figures have known Fischer for years, from his days as First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [where he served from September 1994 to August 2001]. In the past, Turkish officials used to consult him about various economic moves they were considering and his advice helped turn Turkey into an economic power, whose economic growth has not been halted even during the global financial crisis. Stanley Fischer thus seems to be the ideal go-between, one who stands a chance of succeeding where other mediators have failed to reach a compromise acceptable to both sides and resolve the conflict. Netanyahu should therefore enlist the good services of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and assign to him the task of restoring Israel's relations with Turkey. Fischer, for his part, should take the time needed to carry out the mission, even if at the expense of some of the weighty economic issues he has to attend to. Surely, a number of flights between Jerusalem and Ankara would not interfere with his busy schedule too much.

Assigning the mission [of mediation and reconciliation] to Stanley Fischer would be welcome not only by the Turkish but by the American Administration as well. Fischer is regarded highly in Washington and he would no doubt enjoy its backing if and when he takes up the job. In any event, the job has to be done and the sooner the better as, if left untended, the crisis is bound to further deepen with time.

Found in: mediator, israel governor, turkey, stanley fischer, israel

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