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Monday, June 27, 2016

Israel and Turkey 'reconcile': Good for Israel?

Israel and Turkey have agreed to reconcile their six-year split going back to the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 in which nine Turkish citizens were killed after they attacked IDF soldiers stopping the ship from reaching Gaza (and even before that).

This is from the first link.
As part of the agreement, Israel has agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the bereaved and injured, and in return Turkey will pass legislation banning legal proceedings against the Israeli soldiers in its courts. Turkey also dropped a demand for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, and will only be permitted to send aid to the territory after it passes security checks at Israel’s Ashdod port. Ankara will also be allowed to build a hospital as well as a power and desalinization plant in Gaza.
In addressing these terms, Netanyahu stressed that the deal will secure the “continuation of the maritime security blockade off the Gaza Strip coast.”
“This is a supreme security interest for us. I was not prepared to compromise on it,” Netanyahu continued.
Turkey in return has committed to thwart the plotting and financing of Hamas terrorist acts against Israel from its soil. It will also not stand in the way of Israeli involvement in international forums to which it belongs, mostly notably NATO.
Jerusalem and Ankara will also restore full diplomatic relations, appointing ambassadors and lifting restrictions on military and intelligence cooperation. Netanyahu added that the deal will open Turkey to Israeli natural gas exports, and that the country could possibly serve as a gateway to European markets. “[The deal has] immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly,” the prime minister told reporters.
While not a formal part of the deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also personally pledged in a letter to help return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war, which are thought to be held by Hamas, and free two Israelis reportedly being held by the terrorist group. One of the captives is an Ethiopian Jew — described as mentally-ill by his family — who wandered into Gaza accidentally in 2014; the second man, a resident of a Bedouin town in Israel’s Negev desert, also apparently crossed into Gaza of his own volition. He has been described as mentally disabled.
The agreement is expected to be approved by Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday.
Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Netanyahu on the agreement when the two met in Rome on Monday, calling it a “positive step.”
Who wins from this deal?
“Israel comes out on top here,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College who focuses on Turkish and Israeli affairs, told Reuters. “From the start it believed that a deal could be worked out where Turkish aid was able to enter the Gaza Strip under Israeli supervision. It seems this is what was struck.”
“Restoring relations with Ankara is a linchpin in Israel’s strategy to unlock its natural gas wealth,” Reuters added, noting that Israeli energy stocks and shares in Turkey’s Zorlu Energy rose in reaction to the agreement.
A senior Turkish official has also called the deal a “diplomatic victory.”
But not everyone sees it that way. Some people think the real winner is Hamas.
Israel apparently has agreed to the presence of Hamas in Turkey as long as it does not involve itself directly in terrorist attacks against Israel, but limits itself to political and other supposedly nonviolent activity.

However, the sanction of the presence and “political” activity of Hamas in a country with diplomatic ties with Israel undermines years of Israeli public relations against the terrorist group, which sought to identify Hamas with other Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State.

...

Would Israel or any other Western country allow the leader of a friendly state with which it has diplomatic relations meet with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and allow the organization to operate within its territory? Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post the upcoming deal is “a win for the status quo as nothing really changes.”

Besides Hamas not being able to carry out military activity from Turkish soil, everything else stays the same: Hamas maintains its Turkish headquarters; Turkey continues assisting Hamas-ruled Gaza; and Israel facilitates this.

...

Schanzer pointed out that from Israel’s perspective, the government would like to have normalized ties with Muslim countries in general.

“But there is no way to have true normalized relations with Erdogan’s government. It is virtually impossible to imagine, given that Turkey remains an Islamist-ruled state with close ties to Hamas and other anti-Israel organizations.”

Perhaps the deal can be best described as an agreement “to stop publicly fighting, while quietly continuing to disagree on virtually everything.” 
It also remains to be seen how Israel's relations with Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria will be affected by the reconciliation with Turkey.

All in all, it's not a great deal for Israel, principally because it leaves Hamas in place in Turkey. It remains to be seen how Israel will react if Hamas continues to use its Turkish headquarters to orchestrate terror attacks in Judea and Samaria.

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