Turkey–Israel normalization – why ever not?

          “Normalization” is a dirty word among Palestinian leaders, of both Fatah and Hamas persuasions. It implies acceptance of Israel’s right to exist and, by some perverse logic, a downgrading of Palestinian rights.


It must have come as something of a shock, therefore, to read the remarks of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 13 about Turkey’s future relations with Israel: “I have already said that once the compensation and the embargo problems were resolved, the normalization process may start. This normalization process would be good for us, Israel, Palestine and the entire region.”


To be honest, there really is no fundamental reason for relations between Turkey and Israel to be anything but cordial. Indeed for fifty years following the founding of the state of Israel, cordiality was the keynote. In March 1949 Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the new state. Subsequently, despite occasional differences of opinion following the Six-Day War and its consequences, cooperation between the two countries on a variety of fronts was not only close, but deep. By the end of the 1990s a succession of Turkey’s prime ministers had visited Israel, and then-Israeli president, Ezer Weizman had visited Turkey on three occasions to sign agreements aimed at fostering cooperation in the fields of art, culture, education, science, and sports. This was followed by a series of security agreements designed to ensure the closest cooperation between the two countries on intelligence and military matters. Meanwhile 200,000 Israelis flocked to Turkish beaches and casinos each year, and under a Turkish-Israeli free trade agreement trade between the two countries boomed.


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