Why Turkey Is Trying to Charm Israel

On October 27, the Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz visited Turkey, in another sign of the thaw between the two counties that began in March. David May and Sinan Ciddi see this as a promising step, but caution against too much enthusiasm for the reconciliation between Jerusalem and Ankara, former long-times allies whose relations went from cool to hostile in the 21st century:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a third term as president when he is arguably at his weakest politically. His unpopularity is mainly due to the country’s sluggish economy. [But] Erdogan’s position is also precarious due to increasing reliance on Russia since 2016 for energy security, weapons procurement, and Turkey’s “security” goals in Syria. Vladimir Putin’s isolation and toxicity following his invasion of Ukraine have forced Turkey to look elsewhere. . . . Turkey has expressed its willingness to reduce its dependence on Russia by helping pipe Israeli gas to Europe, but Turkey’s prospective deal is little more than a pipe dream.

Erdogan’s charm offensive with Israel signals that Turkey can turn on a dime and reduce its dependence on Moscow. In doing so, Erdogan continues to gesture to regional powers, such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey’s Western allies, that it remains relevant and, to a limited degree, can be an asset. Turkey’s brokering of a major grain-shipment deal from Ukraine that helped avert a world food shortage and the sale of TB2 drones to the Ukrainian military demonstrated its utility.

Israel has several interests in improved ties with Turkey, but the most direct one is inducing Turkey to expel Hamas. Beyond that, there is value in being on good terms with what is arguably the strongest military in the Middle East, a major energy rival, and a country that is operating in Syria, close to Israel.

The pillars of the Israel-Turkey relationship—energy and defense cooperation—require long-term agreements built on mutual trust, not Erdogan’s capricious vacillation between enmity and cooperation. Ejecting Hamas would be a good start, and the decrease in overt hostility is certainly positive, but Gantz’s visit is, at best, window dressing on a cold peace.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Natural Gas, Turkey

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood