Why Turkey May at Last Be Ready to Mend Fences with Israel

March 11 2022

The Israeli president Isaac Herzog’s visit to Ankara this week is not the first time Turkey and Israel have attempted reconciliation. While those previous efforts achieved little, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak sees reason for cautious optimism for the simple reason that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist Turkish president who bears the brunt of responsibility for the rupture, now genuinely desires rapprochement. Playing a key role in this shift is the United Arab Emirates, which, like the Jewish state, takes umbrage at Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas.

Facing the erosion of the Turkish lira and the lack of foreign investors, Ankara was forced last November to normalize its relations with the United Arab Emirates. The emirates, recognizing Ankara’s economic weakness, were quick to announce a $10 billion investment in the Turkish market. In doing so, Abu Dhabi in effect procured the turning point in Turkish foreign policy towards it—and demanded that Ankara abandon its contrarian foreign policy, which also contradicts the spirit of the Abraham Accords.

Over the last two weeks, Turkey, like other countries, has been appalled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This made it appreciate the fact it is part of the NATO alliance, of which it was dismissive in the past. The war in Ukraine will probably see Ankara return to the traditional pro-Western foreign policy we saw during the cold war.

These circumstances mean that this is the first time in the history of bilateral relations that Israel has the upper hand. This means that Jerusalem must make the most of this momentum while not relenting on principles such as demanding that Hamas terrorists be expelled from Turkey. We must also make it clear to Erdogan that Jerusalem is closely monitoring the aggressive, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel public discourse in Turkey, and any attempt to delegitimize Israel will be considered a serious breach of trust between the two countries.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Abraham Accords, Isaac Herzog, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds