How Israel Can Stand Up to a Belligerent Turkey

September 25, 2020 | Efraim Inbar, Eran Lerman, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak
About the author: Efraim Inbar is president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). Eran Lerman is vice-president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Shalem College.

Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has become increasingly authoritarian, Islamist, and hostile toward Israel and the West more generally. The Turkish government has also indicated that it aspires to alter its maritime border with Greece, and even its border with Syria. Analyzing these changes, and what they term the country’s “bellicose foreign policy,” Efraim Inbar, Eran Lerman, and Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak examine the implications for Israel, and how the Jewish state might best respond:

The political changes in Turkey reflect long-term trends in Turkish society and foreign policy that will not disappear even when the Erdogan era ends. Turkey’s frictions with Israel likewise reflect a distancing from the West and a growing solidarity with popular anti-Israeli attitudes in the Muslim world.

In short, Turkey threatens the stability of the region as well as Israel’s strategic interests in the region. Nevertheless, it is possible to design an effective Western strategic response to Turkey.

Israel must act with great caution toward Turkey. It has no interest in turning this powerful country into an active enemy. It should be borne in mind that even under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has demonstrated a certain degree of pragmatism regarding Israel. It has not completely severed its diplomatic relations, and it maintains extensive trade ties with Israel, alongside mutual air traffic that is important for Turkey’s tourist trade—including securing access for Muslim visitors to Jerusalem and particularly to the Temple Mount.

Consequently, Israel must distinguish between Turkey’s current leader and Turkish society as a whole to preserve the possibility of better relations with a future government that is not under [his AKP party’s] control, or a government based on moderate elements in the party. Secular circles in Turkish society [and certain religious Muslim circles] want good relations with Israel. Turkey is not Iran.

Read more on Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now