Turkey, Israel moving toward rapprochement – analysis

Turkey and Israel appear slated for reconciliation after years of tensions, a development that may have been helped by the U.S. elections and the Abraham Accords, the Media Line said on Tuesday.

The normalisation accords of last year with Muslim countries helped Israel break out of its regional isolation, giving the country the upper hand in negotiating with Ankara toward improving diplomatic relations, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, an expert on Turkey from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), told the site.

According to Yanarocak, the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president has also pushed Turkey to mend ties with Israel, to enjoy the latter’s influence on Capitol Hill.

In December, a month after the U.S. election, Erdoğan said he wished better relations with Israel, while noting that Turkey diverges from Israel in the two countries’ approaches towards Palestinian territories. Turkish presidential adviser Mesut Caşın later in the month said full diplomatic relations between the countries could be re-established by March.

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy in May 2018 over Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Turkey has also fostered relations with Hamas, a group fighting against Israel and designated as a terrorist organisation by the West.

Proper relations with Turkey is in Israel's "national interest," according to Yanarocak, but the Hamas movement continues to stand in the way.

According to Mkhaimar Abusada, associate professor of political sciences at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, the Islamist "ideological links" between Hamas and Ankara are "difficult to break."  

Last month, Israel relayed a statement to Ankara that there would be no thaw in relations until the military wing of militant Islamist group Hamas in Istanbul is shut down, Israeli outlet YNet reported.

 Hamas established an office in Istanbul after the Syrian Civil War forced it to abandon one of its bureaus in Damascus. Prominent Hamas military leader Salah Al-Arouri, who headed the Istanbul office, was expelled from the city as part of an earlier attempt at fixing relations between Turkey and Israel in 2015, but Turkish support for Hamas has not been eliminated. 

Among the latest developments pointing to a thawing in relations is Israel and Turkey's recent backing of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Media Line said, with Israeli and Turkish drones and reported intelligence support from the two countries proving pivotal in Azerbaijan's victory over Iranian-backed Armenian forces.