When Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced that Turkey and Israel were going to exchange ambassadors and restore full diplomatic ties, he said that this would be a great economic boon for Israelis. This is probably the prism through which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sees this new relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem. But if there is a hidden understanding that Israel will now reroute its planned gas pipeline to Europe so that it passes through Turkish-controlled territory or water, then major scrutiny is in order.
Former National Security Council head Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror wrote in a recent analysis published by the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security that giving in to requests to build the pipeline through Turkey would be a mistake.
“Israel has enough reasons not to make such a mistake, including not trusting Erdoğan and his followers, which share ideological similarities to the Muslim Brothers,” he wrote.
Turkey has been a problem for two of Israel’s friends: Greece and Cyprus. Israel needs to bolster its relations with those two countries and help them fend off Turkish threats. Turkey has tried to drive a wedge between Israel and Europe by drawing a line through the sea all the way to Libya. Cyprus considers the gas exploration efforts undertaken by Turkey in those areas as a threat to its national security, with the economic waters in the Mediterranean Sea front and center.
Of course, the newly restored ties between Israel and Turkey—the culmination of high-profile visits on both sides, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Ankara—should help create better coordination between the two regional powers.
The rapprochement was clear several months ago when it was discovered that Iran was plotting a series of attacks on Israelis in Turkey. The covert cooperation between Israel and Turkey countered the Iranian effort to foment division between the two countries.
But it turns out that relationships in this region follow axes that do not cross. The Iranian aggression on Turkish soil did not stop Erdogan from scurrying to Tehran several weeks ago to meet his Iranian and Russian counterparts. Likewise, when Erdogan hosted Herzog in Ankara several months ago, the Turkish leader’s grimacing was in stark contrast to the pomp and circumstance and warm embrace from Herzog.
Some explained that this was classic Erdoğan: He has had a tough life and rarely smiles.
By bolstering ties with Israel, Erdoğan’s economic situation may improve. At the same time, he could also exert influence on Hamas. It’s doubtful he will be able to help Israel resolve the ongoing spat with Lebanon over maritime gas fields.
Regardless, the fact that this new diplomatic breakthrough happened just after “Operation Breaking Dawn” in Gaza is an encouraging sign that bodes well for the future. Erdoğan has apparently changed after all.
Amnon Lord is a veteran journalist, film critic, writer and editor.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.
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