Israel in need of rapprochement with Turkey to contain Iran – analyst

Israel can gain a strategic advantage in isolating rival Iran by re-setting its relations with Turkey, said Nicholas Saidel, associate director of U.S.-based NGO Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis & Response (ISTAR).

Ankara also has much to gain from rapprochement with Israel, as the country is in need of U.S.-friendly allies, and has similar interests in containing Iran, Saidel wrote in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday.

Israel-Turkey relations began to deteriorate after Israel raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010, killing ten pro-Palestinian activists, most of them Turkish citizens, onboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship. 

Ties were further severed in May 2018, when Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy in over Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The power axis in the Middle East is split between Turkey, Iran, and Israel and its Arab partners, Saidel said, and now is the perfect time for Israel to “close ranks against Iran,’’ for which it needs Ankara.

The analyst pointed out that there are multiple reasons for Israel to thaw relations with Ankara at the moment.

Turkey and Iran have differing interests over the Caucasus, Iraq, and Syria, which has “chilled bilateral relations,’’ and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signalled a desire for the rekindling of ties with the Jewish state, he recalled.

Erdoğan in December expressed desire for better relations with Israel, a sentiment that has been echoed by leading officials of his ruling party.

Moreover, “re-establishing robust diplomatic ties now would further isolate Iran as it jockeys to maximize its position ahead of negotiations regarding its nuclear file. A more united regional front would further cast Iran as a destabilizing pariah state,’’ Saidel said.

Mending ties with Ankara would also help in Turkey reining in support for Hamas, the analyst wrote, noting that such Israel will also have to engage in modest reciprocation to Ankara.

To this end, Israel could revisiting talks regarding energy cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean, according to Saidel, or look for humanitarian initiatives to improve life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, an area of concern for Erdoğan.