The Turkish-Israeli Reconciliation: A Balance Sheet: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, July 6, 2016— In Israel, where last week's headlines often feel like ancient history, the cabinet's decision on the reconciliation package with Turkey faded fast.
The Turkey-Israel Agreement: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, July 6, 2016— My late father, Nahum Kuperschmidt, was a construction site metalworker, a job that was not especially complex, but required absolute honesty.
Turkey: Victim of Its Own Enthusiasm for Jihad: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, July 7, 2016 — The government big guns in Ankara just shrugged it off when on June 5, 2015, only two days before general elections in the country, homegrown jihadist militants for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syia (ISIS, or ISIL or IS) detonated bombs, killing four people and injuring over 100, at a pro-Kurdish political rally.
The Tragedy of Modern Turkey: Asli Aydintasbas, Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2016— Last week, I was on an inbound flight to Istanbul when terrorists at Ataturk Airport blew themselves up, killing 44.
The Importance of Interests in Israel-Turkey Reconciliation: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 20, 2015
Double Game? Even as it Battles ISIS, Turkey Gives Other Extremists Shelter: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 10, 2015
Will Turkey's New Diplomatic Push Reduce Its American MB Support?: Abha Shankar, IPT News, July 7, 2016
An Ottoman Return to Jerusalem?: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, July 5, 2016
Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
BESA, July 6, 2016
In Israel, where last week's headlines often feel like ancient history, the cabinet's decision on the reconciliation package with Turkey faded fast. It was replaced by anguish and anger over the murder of a Jewish 13-year-old in her bed, and the shooting attack on a family car that took the life of the father – foul deeds that have yet to be denounced by Palestinian leadership.
Still, the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation remains a bold government decision that was taken in defiance of popular sentiment. The cabinet vote, seven to three in favor, was in roughly inverse proportion to public opinion. The decision represented a conjunction of grand strategy and manipulative diplomacy; of national security and business interests; of cold calculation and identity politics; of raw power and legal finery. At the end of the day, the reconciliation leaves Israel morally bruised but strategically better off.
Many in Israel were outraged by the deal, in part because it did not (and indeed, could not) provide for the return of two individuals and the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas. Others are angered by Israel’s apology and payment for the Marmara incident. The Marmara was the lead vessel in a Turkish flotilla that was seeking to breach Israel's legal blockade of the terrorist entity in Gaza in 2010. Israeli commandos raided the vessel, and nine Turkish nationals were killed in the melee. On board the ship were a large number of activists from IHH, a radical Islamist group in Turkey.
For the Turkish victims’ families to be paid millions in compensation – albeit ex gratia – is not easy for Israelis to accept, particularly in light of the Palmer report that stated unequivocally that Israel acted within her rights during the raid. Several of the IDF soldiers who were involved have tried to petition the courts against the payment. There is no hope, moreover, even among supporters of the deal, for a true change of mind on Erdoğan's part with regard to Israel. His hostility towards Israel is deeply ingrained, as is his sympathy towards Hamas. Our close associates of recent years, Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, all view Turkey with extreme suspicion.
Why agree to the deal, then? The answer lies within the realm of strategic calculation, as well as within the dynamics of the negotiations. A cost-benefit analysis should be made not in the abstract, but against the background of what had already been conceded and what has now been gained. The most painful “give” – the apology (not for the operation itself, which was legal under the law of the sea, but for "operational mistakes" during the raid) – was already made in March 2013, under heavy pressure from the Obama Administration. At the time, the principle of compensation was also agreed upon, roughly at the levels ultimately incorporated in the agreement. Three other considerations stood in the way, however, and a fourth constraint was added in 2014. But all four obstacles were overcome by mid-2016.
Politics: As long as Erdoğan was still fighting to impose his new model of Turkish constitutional practices, centered on an empowered presidency, Israel saw no need to lend him a helping hand. Once he had solidified his position, however, it became pointless to wait for a different political proposition in Ankara. Meanwhile, political changes in Israel secured Netanyahu against the prospect of an aggressive parliamentary campaign by the hard right to protest the decision…
Gaza: Again and again, in his aggressive (and occasionally anti-Semitic) style, Erdoğan promised to insist on a “third condition” besides the apology and compensation: the lifting of the “siege” on Gaza. Working in close association with Qatar, he placed himself at the service of Muslim Brotherhood offshoots across the region, including Hamas. For Israel, this was a deal breaker. Hamas cannot possibly be allowed to trade freely, or the Strip will soon be inundated with Iranian arms. Thus, a broad range of face-saving alternatives was offered to the Turkish side, designed to enable Erdoğan to retreat while claiming to advance.
The sides ultimately agreed to these terms: Turkey will be allowed to build a power station and other facilities in Gaza. (This is actually a prospect welcomed by Israel, since the IDF is acutely aware of the need to overcome power and water shortages there). But all relevant supplies will be unloaded at Ashdod Port, inspected, and driven in by truck through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. In effect, the Turkish government conceded Israel's point…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Breaking Israel News, July 6, 2016
My late father, Nahum Kuperschmidt, was a construction site metalworker, a job that was not especially complex, but required absolute honesty, because although no one knows exactly what a metalworker does to keep precipitation from leaking into a building, the first rains are enough to expose any careless work on his part. He taught me an ironclad rule: When dealing with decent people you don’t need a contract, but if the people you are dealing with are not decent, a contract will do you no good. Every time I have to sign a contract I check on the decency of the other party before doing so. And the same rule that works in the private sphere works in the public sphere.
The agreement signed by Israel and Turkey this week is meant to restore relations between the two countries to the level they were before the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010. When the Justice and Development Party headed by Recep Tayyib Erdogan won the 2002 Turkish elections and blanketed the relations between Turkey and Israel with an Islamist cloud emanating from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose modern version of political Islam’s policy was to deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state or to be the homeland of the Jewish people. The Jews were supposed to be under Islamic subjugation as a class of “protected dhimmi” with limited rights at best.
Diplomatic relations with Israel were part of Erdogan’s inheritance, but he gradually chilled and downgraded them, while he warmed up to and developed relations with the Islamic entity in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Marmara was Erdogan’s contribution towards breaking the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and Israel’s success in preventing that from happening was a bitter pill for him to swallow.
Under the Islamic party’s rule, Turkey had to put up with, at first, a number of heretical vestiges of the secular vision of the “Attaturk” (Mustapha Kamal) regimes that ran the country from the 1920’s until the Islamists returned to power. That included several casinos that continued to operate until a few years past 2002, the sale of alcoholic beverages and beaches where the prevalent attire was light years away from Islamic norms. The flotilla crisis occurred in May 2010 and its aftermath is now in the hands of President Erdogan, who has to decide if he, the Islamist, will reestablish the relations with Israel which he himself caused to be severed. The decision is not an easy one, especially for a person whose egocentricity trumps every objective factor, so that he has to swallow his pride in order to agree to the deal.
Except that the past few years have left him no choice. Despite his political ambitions to live in peace with all the nations surrounding Turkey, he managed to find himself in conflict with every one of them. He is accused of providing the bridge which Jihadists crossed into Syria, destroying that country; he supported ISIS mainly by purchasing raw fuel that the group produced in Syria and Iraq; he shot down a Russian warplane in 2015 and found himself at odds with Putin; he is up to his neck in a struggle with the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi Kurds; he is in mess with the Iranians who strongly support Assad, whom he hates with a passion, and he also has to sit by and watch the Iranians take over the Arab areas on the southern border of Turkey, Iraq and Syria, after their takeover of Lebanon by means of Iran’s proxy, the Hezbollah.
As soon as Turkey itself became a target for ISIS terror attacks, Erdogan found himself in a war with Islamic fanatics – exactly like Israel. He knows one or two things about Hamas involvement in training, arming and drilling Jihadists in the “Sinai Province of Islamic State” and it is possible that his decision to reach an agreement with Israel will cause a certain chill in his relations with Hamas. Time will tell, especially if Turkey keeps its commitment to prevent Hamas from using Turkey as a base of operations. In the agreement, Turkey agreed in principle to the continuation of Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza, and all Turkish aid to Gaza will arrive through the port of Ashdod after its contents are checked and authorized by Israel. This is a great achievement for Israel – and it is quite possible that Hamas will refuse to accept the aid under these conditions.
Another Israeli achievement has to do with marketing gas to Turkey by way of an undersea pipeline, and perhaps even eliciting Turkey’s help in marketing gas to Europe. This is a very important part of the agreement, considering the fact that in the past few years several Turkish politicians have expressed their belief that Turkey has rights to the gas in the deposits that Israel discovered, and there was even the possibility of Turkey initiating hostilities against Israeli gas installations in the Mediterranean. Including the gas issue in the agreement puts an end to any future Turkish claims on rights to the gas deposits.
The price Israel paid for the agreement with Turkey was not a minor one, nor is it an easy one to pay. In exchange for ending all Turkish claims against IDF soldiers and Israeli politicians with regard to the Marmara, Israel agreed to apologize for the killing of ten Turkish citizens during the takeover of the ship and to the payment of 20 m. dollars, not directly to the families, but to a fund to be managed by the Turkish government.
Israel dropped its demand to return Avera Mengistu and Hasham Alsaid as well as the remains of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. The reason for that is simple. Israel feels that Hamas will be far from pleased by the agreement, to put it mildly, and will not be willing to do anything that might help it succeed. Instead of empowering Hamas by granting it the ability to sabotage the agreement, Israel decided to leave the humanitarian issues on a bilateral level, between Israel and Hamas. That aside, no country can mortgage its relations with another important country in order to solve and bring to an end problems involving specific persons. It is true that the two fallen IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, were sent to war by the state, and it is true that the states’ commitment to them is absolute, still – since they are, sadly, not among the living – the issue is an emotional and symbolic one for the citizens of Israel, while relations with Turkey are in the field of national, strategic, political and economic interests of the organizational aspects of the state.
All in all, the agreement with Turkey is a good one, balanced and of significant benefit to the important needs of the state of Israel. One wonders, naturally, what factors helped Israel reach this agreement. Turkey’s needs are a critical factor, as described above, and there are rumors to the effect that Israel was the go between in the easing of the antagonism between Russia and Turkey with respect to the Russian aircraft downed by Turkey. It is not far fetched to assume that Saudi Arabia contributed to the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel as well, and perhaps even the US added its blessing to the nascent agreement. With all that, the agreement is mainly a result of the extremely successful management of the negotiation process that brought it about…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Gatestone Institute, July 7, 2016
The government big guns in Ankara just shrugged it off when on June 5, 2015, only two days before general elections in the country, homegrown jihadist militants for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syia (ISIS, or ISIL or IS) detonated bombs, killing four people and injuring over 100, at a pro-Kurdish political rally. Again, when IS, on July 20, 2015, bombed a meeting of pro-Kurdish peace activists in a small town on Turkey's Syrian border, killing 33 people and injuring over 100, the government behaved as if it had never happened. After all, a bunch of "wild boys" from the ranks of jihad — which the ruling party in Ankara not-so-secretly aspires to — were killing the common enemy: Kurds.
Then when IS jihadists, in October, killed over 100 people in the heart of Ankara, while targeting, once again, a public rally of pro-peace activists (including many Kurds), the Turkish government put the blame on "a cocktail of terror groups" — meaning the attack may have been a product of Islamists, far-leftist and Kurdish militants. "IS, Kurdish or far-leftist militants could have carried out the bombing," the prime minister at the time, Ahmet Davutoglu, said. It was the worst single terror attack in Turkey's history, and the Ankara government was too demure even to name the perpetrators. An indictment against 36 suspects, completed nearly nine months after the attack, identified all defendants as Islamic State members. So there was no "cocktail of terror." It was just the jihadists.
In the last year, there had been further jihadist acts of terror, targeting Turks and foreign tourists, but with relatively few casualties up to now. At an Istanbul airport, however, a mysterious explosion, which the authorities hastily attempted to cover up, was probably the precursor of the latest mega-attack in Istanbul. The management at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport said on Dec. 23, 2015 that: "There was an explosion at the apron and investigation regarding its cause is progressing … Flights have resumed." That unidentified explosion consisted of three or four mortars fired at a passenger plane parked at the apron. The attack killed one unfortunate cleaner.
The incident was quickly "disappeared" from the public memory. One person dying in a mysterious explosion was too minor for a collective Turkish memory that had grown used to casualties coming in the dozens. It was, in fact, a powerful message from the terrorists: We will target your lifeline — air traffic. Every year about 60 million travelers pass through Istanbul's main airport, Ataturk. Turkey is now building an even bigger airport that will host 150 million passengers a year. Completing the mission from December's "minor and unresolved" attack at the Sabiha Gokcen Airport, the terrorists visited Ataturk Airport on June 28, killing at least 45 and injuring hundreds of people. Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said that it was "probably" an attack by IS. Days later, the suicide bombers were identified as jihadists of Central Asian origin.
In a state of perpetual denial, Turkey's Islamist rulers are still too bashful to admit any linkage between political Islam and violence. Ironically, their denial exposes their country to the risk of even more Islamic terror. Worse, the political Islam they fuel in their own country is growing millions of potential jihadists at home. In November, a Pew Research Center study found that 27% of Turks (more than 20 million) did not have an unfavorable opinion of IS — compared to, say, 16% in the Palestinian territories…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2016
Last week, I was on an inbound flight to Istanbul when terrorists at Ataturk Airport blew themselves up, killing 44. My plane was diverted, and upon landing in Ankara I called a friend and we had a drink. It wasn’t that I wasn’t saddened by the attack, but like most people in Turkey I’ve grown dangerously accustomed to living with violence and death.
Between Islamic State and Kurdish separatists, across Turkey over the past year there have been 15 bombings and suicide attacks, resulting in nearly 300 deaths. In the country’s southeast, where the collapse of peace talks last summer gave way to a Kurdish insurgency, the government claims it has killed 6,900 Kurdish militants. Military and security personnel have suffered about 600 casualties, and civilians killed in the crossfire between government forces and the Kurdish separatists have numbered a few hundred more. And there you have it: 8,000 Turkish citizens dead in one year, and a return to the 1990s-style half-free, half-oppressive national-security state. An annus horriblis in every way.
Amid this whole mess, how can one worry about being in an airport attacked by Islamic State when there have been similar bombings on the subway, a pedestrian street in downtown Istanbul and a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara? I now understand how people could party in one part of Beirut while fighting raged on in another. In times of chaos, you become desensitized to death. You take precautions, then go about your business. How else to live?
Turkey’s descent into turmoil has largely to do with the current state of the Middle East and the spillover from the Syrian war. On top of hosting 2.5 million Syrian refugees, we live with a region infested with jihadists, stricken by sectarian wars, home to al Qaeda and Islamic State. A decade ago Turkey was a model Muslim democracy on its way to membership in the European Union. Now we are facing old-fashioned authoritarianism at home and the regional fallout from the Arab Spring. The Turkish government’s decisions over the past few years have aggravated its maladies. At the outset of the Syrian war, Turkey’s ruling Islamists were so fervent about a regime change in Damascus that they turned a blind eye to the flow of jihadists into Syria. That’s how Islamic State prospered.
Turkey wasn’t alone in this mistake. Many European governments also watched as young men bought tickets to Istanbul and crossed into Syria early in the war. When I went to Syria in late 2012, I simply strolled across olive groves in Kilis, with no controls, no stamps. Groups of foreign fighters waited in the shade of trees to meet up with their opposition contacts. In the years that followed, Islamic State and other groups used Turkey as a safe passageway, a recruitment ground and a corridor for goods and services. At one time, it may have been forgivable to see the Assad regime as the “real problem” and the jihadists as a “future problem.” But Turkey’s blindness has persisted. Ankara kept thinking it could develop a modus vivendi with Islamic State on its borders, until it was too late.
Far less forgivable is Turkey’s decision last year to overhaul its Syrian policy so it could prevent Syrian Kurds from gaining strength on its southern flank. “PYD is more dangerous than ISIS,” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said about the Syrian Kurdish group. This was only a few months after the Kurds put up an epic struggle to expel the Islamic State in the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. Ankara watched warily in 2015 as Kurds steamrolled through Islamic State-controlled territory on its border with the help of U.S. airstrikes. This should have been a cause for celebration. The Syrian Kurds are secular, well-organized and made up in part by volunteers from Turkey’s own Kurds. They are also affiliated with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been in peace talks with Ankara for years.
Instead, Ankara closed its borders to those towns captured by Kurds from Islamic State. Mr. Erdogan ended the peace talks at home and joined an international coalition against Islamic State, hoping to pull Washington away from its burgeoning alliance with the Kurds. Turkey continues to support a coterie of jihadists and nonjihadist opposition groups in Syria, but when it comes to Kurds—our cousins, our citizens, our neighbors—we become irrational.
Ankara sees the Kurdish movement as an existential threat and Islamic State as a nuisance. Its primary concern in Syria is the prevention of a contiguous Kurdish zone there, out of fear that a “Kurdish belt” in northern Syria would entice Turkey’s Kurds to call for greater autonomy. That’s no way to keep a country together, and it hurts Turkey’s long-term interests and the international fight against Islamic State. Turkey should support the idea of a Kurdish belt on its southern borders, grandfather a Kurdish zone, isolate itself from the instability in Iraq and Syria, and return to the peace talks at home. With nearly 20% of its population being Kurds, Mr. Erdogan’s anti-Kurdish policy in Syria aggravates the insurgency at home.
This is the tragedy of modern Turkey. Its current Islamist rulers burn with nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire. But they are the products of a timid 20th-century nation-state, narrow-minded and unable to provide lasting solutions to transnational ills. Both the Kurdish issue and the Islamic State mess are intertwined and require big thinking. The sensible solution would be to work with the Kurds to stave off Islamic State, not the other way around.
The Importance of Interests in Israel-Turkey Reconciliation: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 20, 2015— Israel's once-close relationship with Turkey began losing its luster in 2003, when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected prime minister. The deterioration never caused an actual rift between the countries, but it was clear that the Islamist Erdoğan, who is now Turkey's president, was leading his country toward a conflict with Israel.
Double Game? Even as it Battles ISIS, Turkey Gives Other Extremists Shelter: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 10, 2015—To his Turkish hosts, Rifai Ahmed Taha was a tiny, elf-like man with an oversize beard and colorful past. To U.S. officials, he was a dangerous terrorist who would be tracked and targeted — if ever he left his Turkish sanctuary.
Will Turkey's New Diplomatic Push Reduce Its American MB Support?: Abha Shankar, IPT News, July 7, 2016—Turkey is mending fences with Egypt and cutting back its support for the Muslim Brotherhood in response to the deadly terror attacks that have struck the country over the past year, The London Times reports.
An Ottoman Return to Jerusalem?: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, July 5, 2016—Following Israel’s reconciliation agreement with Turkey on June 26, 2016, attention was given to Turkey’s involvement in Gaza and how it can influence Hamas. But attention was not paid to Turkey’s deepening involvement in east Jerusalem and in the mosques on the Temple Mount, in particular.