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.