Turkish-Israeli Political Tension: Is There A Hocus-Pocus?

Joe Hammoura, ” Turkish-Israeli Political Tension: Is There A Hocus-Pocus?”, December 19, 2014.

Despite the diplomatic and political tension between Turkey and Israel, we find ourselves standing in front of blooming trade and business relations between the two Middle Eastern countries. Whilst the voices of anti-Semitics are on the rise in Turkey, in addition the “moderates” are calling to condemn the Israeli aggression towards Palestinians and to adopt firmer policies towards the Jewish State. These events are widening the already existing rift between the two countries due to tension in political relations. The aforementioned adversary does not have any impact on their economic cooperation.

Before the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) became the ruling party in 2002, the relation between the two countries was thriving. As Turkey counted itself as a European country; to which the Turkish nationalists and seculars, the ruling elite back then, sported a view of arrogance towards Arabs, which the Israelis share. The two states found themselves in a hostile Arab environment all at the same time, thus it was critical for both countries to protect their national security and stability, which resulted in an alliance between Turkey and Israel under the United States’ umbrella.

Therefore it was considered bad news for Israel when the conservative-Islamic AKP took power in Turkey. The new government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom was the Turkish Prime Minister then, is highly influenced by Islamic ideology, and has adopted new active regional policies towards Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East. For Turkey wanted to revive its regional role and to increase its influence and impact, which was lost after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, on the Arab public.

Creating a political strife with the sole incontestable enemy for Arabs; the Israelis, was the surefire way to win the hearts and minds of Arabs, which the Turkish officials managed to orchestrate spectacularly. The “show” started with the repeated harsh criticism towards Israel because of their aggression towards Palestinians, then the controversial confrontation between Erdoğan and the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, which ended with Turkish former PM storming out of the World Economic Forum debate in Davos in 2009 [1].

The relations between Turkey and Israel kept on spiraling down, in the year 2010, when the Israeli naval commandos raided the Mavi Marmara [2], a ship carrying humanitarian aid attempting to breach Israel’s blockade on Gaza, this act resulted in the killing of eight Turkish civilians and one Turkish-American. Eventually the political tension between the two countries resulted in downgrading the official diplomatic ties and a mutual expel of ambassadors between the two countries in 2011 [3].

Besides continuously criticizing and confronting Israel, the Turkish authorities had heavily engaged in humanitarian aid, aimed at helping the Palestinians, by donating millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance in order to recover from the damages of the wars, which made Turkey the third largest international donor in 2013 [4]. Israel didn’t frown upon the Turkish involvement in rebuilding Gaza Strip especially that it came at the expense of the brazen Iranian interference in Palestine.

Amid the ever rising political tension, the economic relations were flourishing, the mutual trade volume of the two states increased to $5 billion [5], compared to $3.4 billion in 2008, and while Israel came in the 24th place for Turkey’s largest exporters in 2013, it moved up to become the 17th in 2014 [6]. Imports from Israel to Turkey have also increased significantly since last year, accelerating at 27 percent during the first five months of 2014.

One of the main areas of corporation between Turkey and Israel would be the flow of Kurdish oil [7]. The transportation of Iraqi Kurdistan oil is made through Ceyhan port in Turkey to Israel or to Israeli buyers by sea. On the other hand, Turkey is one of Israel’s 10 biggest export markets. Most of Israel’s exports to Turkey are chemicals, electrical equipment, plastics and rubber products. The imports categories are; plastics and rubber, minerals, textiles, concrete, asbestos, ceramics, glass machinery and cars [8].

Other than the growing trade between the two countries, the tourism has been amplified too. Tourism was affected by the political tension in regards to the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. However, Turkey reported an 80 percent increase in Israeli tourists, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2013 apology to Turkey over the incident. Figures released by the Turkish Ministry of Tourism, reported that 24.385 Turks visited Israel in 2013, which is an unprecedented number. In fact, 13.126 Turks visited Israel the first five months of 2014, compared with 10.056 for the same time frame in 2013, according to the same source [9].

Another important aspect of the economic relationship between Turkey and Israel is the exchange of expertise between the two nations. Turkish Tech entrepreneurs hindered by their inability to sell their products abroad, therefore, they seek Israel’s help in terms of experience, all the while establishing partnership with Israeli firms to sell their goods abroad. In return, the 74 million Turkish markets, which are full of opportunities, have opened its doors to Israeli investors. According to Gizem Koç, a Turkish entrepreneur, “Israel has become an international tech powerhouse, selling its technology abroad because it doesn’t have a local market”, while the Turkish market forms a profitable market to Israeli advanced tech products [10].

Turkish-Israeli economical relation is obviously on its peak, albeit the apparent political crisis between the old allies. All indicators point that 2014 will break several economic records between the two countries. The Turkish apparent hostility towards Israel gives the AKP government some sort of legitimacy in response to the much growing local criticism to Israel’s aggressive policies, which also acts as a profitable free positive publicity amongst the Arabs, who are falling for in all naivety. However, the growing economic ties between the two countries and the mutual security threats coming from neighboring countries will eventually work in favor of fortifying the political relations between Turkey and Israel.

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Please cite this publication as follows:

Hammoura J. (December, 2014), “Turkish-Israeli Political Tension: Is There A Hocus-Pocus?”, Vol. III, Issue 12, pp.62-65, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=7586)

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