During Israel’s recent operation against Hamas in Gaza, the so-called Operation Cast Lead which lasted from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, Israeli-Turkish bilateral relations reached their lowest point since the early 1990s. Now that all the dust has settled, it is becoming clear that although the relationship did not touch bottom, it came dangerously close, particularly after the verbal spat between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Davos. When similar incidents took place over the last couple of years, for example when former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit called Israel’s response to the Second Intifada “genocidal” in 2002, and Prime Minister Erdoğan accused Israel of committing “state terrorism” in 2004, diplomats on both sides always assured the international community and informed public
Between Crises and Cooperation: The Future of Turkish-Israeli Relations
Bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel nosedived after the recent Israeli operation in Gaza, and both countries tested each other’s red lines at the height of the crisis from January to mid-February 2009. The verbal spat between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Davos and, later, an undiplomatic statement by the Israeli Ground Forces commander, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, led many observers to believe that the strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel had been dealt a fatal blow. However, diplomats and statesmen have already started mending diplomatic ties, while military cooperation between the two countries continued routinely. The latest crisis confirmed two oft-repeated conjectures regarding the pattern in bilateral ties: first, Turkey’s partnership with Israel is fundamentally pegged to Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians, and, second, the profundity of the partnership has reached a level that makes a divorce quite complicated and difficult.
Turkey cannot and need not refrain from criticizing Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank, especially when the toll on the civilian population is so high.
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