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Can Erdogan make Turkey and Israel best friends?

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Erdogan was the biggest critic of Israel and its policy. He used to call Israel a Terrorist and Child Murderer state. Not only that, When UAE established Diplomatic relations with Israel, President Erdogan threatened that Turkey will cut its diplomatic ties with UAE.

Now things have changed, and President Erdogan has decided to improve its relations with Israel. He invited Israeli President Isaac Herzog for an official visit to Turkey as an opportunity to mend its relationship with Turkey. Erdoğan used a congratulatory phone call after Herzog was inaugurated last July to start engaging directly with Israel. They have spoken on the phone three times since, including once earlier this month.

“This visit could open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel,” Erdoğan said in an interview with Turkey’s channel, adding that he was “ready to take steps in Israel’s direction in all areas, including natural gas.

Turkey still criticizes the Israeli government for its brutal approach and illegal settlements in Palestine. Erdoğan publicly stated in December that even though Turkey could not accept Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, “our heart desires that we can move our relations with them to a better point.”

Why?

the main reason for Turkey to improve relations with Israel and other Gulf states is, that Turkey had made a lot of enemies in the region. Not with Israel Only, Turkey’s relations with Muslim countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia were worse than ever. 

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 Specifically, Turkey is feeling the pressure as a result of the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states, and the reconciliation between its ally, Qatar, and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as Egypt. It is also concerned about the shift in regional alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean—Turkey, for example, was excluded from the East Mediterranean Gas Forum established in 2020. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to visit the UAE on Feb. 14.

In recent months, Turkey is suffering from a major economic crisis. In the year 2021, the Turkish Lira increased from 7.5 per dollar in Feb 2021, to 16.6 per dollar in December 2021. 

while dealing with Turkey’s major economic crisis, Erdogan has intensified his courtship of Israel. Every few weeks he publicly expresses his desire to put ties between the two countries.

Relations between Turkey and the United States, meanwhile, have been on a steady downward trajectory in recent years. US President Joe Biden has inherited a relationship that has been worn thin by continuous tension and deteriorating trust. Biden may take a hard line toward Turkey on many issues, including Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense missile system and democratic and human rights. Like the Obama administration, The Biden administration is also pressurizing Turkey to work together with Israel, especially in Syria. 

Israel response

Israel is currently being cautious of Turkey’s intentions of inviting the president. Some sources have said that the Israeli Prime minister has made up his mind to accept the invitation of Turkey. A senior Israeli official said the Israel Prime minister’s visit wouldn’t happen right away but it was not a question of if, but how and when.

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“If a leader of an important Muslim country like Turkey reaches out to Israel, there is no option other than giving a positive answer,” the senior Israeli official said.

Turkey Israel Trade

The interesting thing between Turkey and Israel is, that even when the relationship between both countries was at the worst stage, they never stop to trade with each other. Relations between Turkey and Israel have hit rock bottom in the wake of Israel’s attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque in May 2021. But trade between the two countries continues to increase regardless.

The volume of trade between the two countries today is $6.5 billion, while it was $1.4 billion during the time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came into power. Israel ranked third among importers of Turkish goods and services in 2020, according to the report, with imports at a value of $4.7 billion.

There may be a red line in politics, but there doesn’t seem to be a parallel line in trade.

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