Last week’s landmark visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey has been hailed as a “turning point” in Turkish-Israeli relations, but there are many potential bumps in the road to rapprochement, Gabi Mitchell, an expert on Eastern Mediterranean energy and geopolitics, told Media Line on Tuesday.
While Israel will need some time to gauge the volume of normalization with Turkey, according to Mitchell, Ankara appears eager to promote energy projects – a prospect which she maintains is and always has been doubtful.
Herzog on Wednesday became the first Israeli president to visit Turkey in 14 years. Relations between the two countries have been plagued by a decade of tensions following
After his meeting with the Israeli counterpart, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğandescribed Herzog’s visit as “historic” and “a turning point” in Turkish-Israeli relations, adding that Turkey was ready to cooperate with Israel in the energy sector and that the Turkish foreign and energy ministers would soon visit Israel for further talks on increased cooperation.
But discussion around energy cooperation is nothing new, according to Mitchell.
“ In 2016, the two sides agreed to discuss this issue. The talks finally failed in 2018. The Turks and the Israelis said they couldn’t agree on costs, but for Israel, there was also a concern about bypassing Cyprus,” Mitchell said.
“The situation is not much different today, even if the EU is experiencing an exceptional situation and we might potentially witness a change of direction due to the current crisis in the energy sphere,’’ she added
The issue of Palestine, including Turkey’s relations with Hamas, also stands in the way of rapprochement between the countries.
Ankara maintains close ties with Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip. The United States and European Union have designated Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation.
Israel has long urged Turkey to cut ties with Hamas over allegations it uses country as base to launch attacks.
Hamas has condemned Herzog’s visit to Ankara, but the group’s leaders refrained from explicitly criticizing Ankara over the visit, the Media Line said.
Ankara has visibly toned down its criticism of Israel ahead of Herzog’s visit, but Ankara has been clear that it will not abandon its commitment to supporting Palestinian statehood.
Ramadan will begin on April 1, in close proximity to the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover, a time when tensions in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have grown, Dr. Assa Ofir, a historian of the modern Middle East and an expert on Turkish affairs, told the Media line.
“How will Turkey behave in case of another flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians?” Offir asked.