The relations between Israel and Turkey were based on good security relations, extensive foreign trade, tourism, and aviation. The Mavi Marmara events in 2010 severely damaged relations between the two countries and since then the relations have been under the watchful eyes of both sides. On the one hand, security cooperation was halted, including the sale of weapons and the conduct of joint military exercises. On the other hand, the economic relations between the countries have been maintained. Turkish Airlines, operates as the second largest airline in Israel with a number of passengers departing from Israel, and recently LC WAIKIKI, a Turkish fashion company opened its four stores in Israel.
The last election campaign in Turkey, which ended on June 24 with Erdogan’s victory, was full of animosity towards Israel on the part of the incumbent president. The peak of the hostility appeared in the expulsion of the Israeli’s ambassador in Ankara, Eitan Naeh, on May 15, and the humiliating and well-documented security check that he passed through at the airport on his way to Israel. During the election campaign, Erdoğan even threatened more than once to completely sever relations with Israel.
Erdoğan chose to escalate the relations mainly for domestic purposes. He has done it in order to unite the Turkish people around him and support him in the upcoming election. It is always good for him to come to a confrontation with a non-Muslim state, let alone with Israel. This is how he conveys to the Turkish people a message that he is fighting for Islam and supports the Palestinians.
How are relations expected after Erdogan’s victory?
Erdoğan has a number of interests to maintain the existing relationship with Israel. One of them is only to allow him to take counter measures that would not have been possible if there were no relations between the countries. Erdoğan, who sees himself or want to see himself as the protector and patron of Jerusalem, must maintain open access for himself and for the Turkish pilgrims – an access that will be blocked once relations are broken. Turkey has debts of $240 billion and alongside this huge debt, the value of the Turkish Lira has been falling for a long time. These facts do not allow Erdoğan the possibility of worsening the situation by severing relations with Israel, which suffers from a trade deficit of $1.5 billion. A complete severance of relations between Turkey and Israel could also complicate Erdoğan’s ties with the United States and with other NATO members.
For its part, Israel considered whether and how to congratulate. Alongside on his election, a dilemma that was sharpened by the fact that Hamas and Iran were the first to congratulate him. A bill that was submitted to the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for recognition of the Armenian people’s holocaust was once again on the agenda, clarifying that the Israeli side was interested in signaling to the Turkish president that in the current situation Israel was no longer obligated to agreements from the past.
In summary, it seems that economic relations exist and even flourish in a variety of fields. In contrast, political-security relations are almost nonexistent. Erdoğan, who wants to revive the Ottoman Empire, does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel and is an important ally of the Ayatollah regime in Iran and a supporter of Hamas, probably will not change this approach in the future. The State of Israel will not want to be the one who cuts off the relationship and runs the risk of perpetuating the evil that might ensue. Therefore, it seems that the relations will continue to fluctuate and move, whether or not the ambassadors will serve in Ankara and Tel Aviv. The intermediate levels in both countries, which are responsible for maintaining relations, will continue to do their important work to promote cooperation, which may in the future also lead to significant and genuine reinforcement of relations that will return to the situation prevailing between the two countries before Erdoğan’s rise.