Hot Trade, Cold Ties: Israel and Turkey’s New Status Quo

Hot Trade, Cold Ties: Israel and Turkey’s New Status Quo
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a campaign rally, Hakkari, Turkey, May 26, 2015 (AP photo).

Despite new commonalities of interest arising from chaos and change in the Middle East, and after a brief moment of opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough a year ago, Israel and Turkey’s relations remain in a deep freeze at the highest levels of government. Yet bilateral trade continues to boom, and economic ties are robust at many other levels. Nevertheless, the two states are unlikely to reconcile politically any time soon, absent changes of leadership on both sides and the prior resolution of a host of other more pressing regional problems.

Israel has long felt isolated in the region and drew on its closer relationship with Turkey in the 1990s and the first part of the 2000s to counter that. That relationship began to cool with the 2009 Gaza War, which then-Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vehemently opposed. Ties were all but frozen after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Over the past three years, however, Turkey has found itself in a similar bind. It ended its relationship with the Syrian government, openly supporting the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and hosting Syrian rebels in Turkey, and took positions on regional issues that left it at varying degrees of contention with Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the Arab Gulf states.

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