Ankara (GPA) – Despite continued bluster that Turkey will defend Jerusalem to the last man, based on the evidence of Israel-Tukey relations, this all-out Turkish attack to save Al Quds basically amounts to fantasy.
Over the past several months (even more so since the movement of the US embassy to Jerusalem) there has been an increased amount of anti-Israel rhetoric coming from Turkey, primarily fueled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister leads an apartheid terrorist state that is built on the murder of Palestinians and keeping them from having even the most basic rights (which is actually true).
The only problem with a lot of these statements is that while Erdogan may be attempting to lead ‘the Ummah’ is that many of his positions are highly hypocritical. While many of the hard numbers or recent dates are harder to come by, here is a summary of some of the largest ties between Israel and Turkey. Although some of these agreements may no longer be in effect or maybe highly modified, most still exist and based on what we do know here is an outline of the real Israel-Turkey relationship.
Israel-Turkey cooperation not hurt by Erodgan-Netanyahu theater
Let’s start out with a couple of basic facts, we know Israel is a regional power and we know that Turkey would desperately like to be (seemingly with little regard of any cost to their domestic stability). One way for the Turkish government to do this is to try to portray themselves as a leader of a greater Islamic movement by making high-profile public statements (that, in fairness, are true) calling out the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, a terrorist state, and according to Erdogan, the modern-day equivalent to the NAZI party of World War 2 Germany.
A lot of this public deterioration began around 2009 when Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) – a party with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood – made the decision to try to fill the role recently abandoned by the Gulf monarchies as a public protector of Palestine rather than being open to negotiation. In 2009 is when Erdogan attended the infamous meeting at Davos where he followed Israeli PM Simon Peres’ statement by saying “I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong,” and storming out of the plenum (which has become a trend with the Turkish President).
These tensions really came to a head in 2010 when Turkey led a flotilla in order to deliver supplies to the Gaza Strip which ended in an IDF attack leaving 10 Turkish nationals dead. This later led to Turkey calling on the United Nations to put some kind of stop the war in Gaza at the time which Erdogan had called “a crime against humanity.”
While this all this truth about Israel in a world where that is almost forbidden may sound good, the problem comes once you begin investigating the reality of what Israeli-Turkish relations actually look like beginning with the start of a negotiation process in 2013 working towards reconciliation under the supervision of Barack Obama. While both Bibi and Erdogan may speak in harsh terms about each other, in reality, much between Turkey, pre-AKP has remained the same in the era of Erdogan and in some areas has even increased. When you break down some of the numbers of this, you start to see just how disingenuous Netanyahu and Erdogan are on the real state of Israeli-Turkish relations.
The Israel-Turkey conflict is all about PR
The problem with all this back and forth bullshitting by Netanyahu and Erdogan is that it does not at all reflect the actual state of Israeli-Turkish relations. For starters, behind all of this supposed hostility, one simple metric to examine Israel-Turkey relations is how safe Israelis feel in Turkey (keeping in mind the Israelis basically say they feel unsafe everywhere) is the growing of numbers of tourists coming from Israel, apparently feeling no concern about any potential threats by rabid government-condoned anti-Zionist mobs.
On top of tourism, as of right now, although there are some newer restrictions on Israeli-Turkish trade, the fact of the matter is that these two countries economy’s have a vested interest in keeping certain types of capital flowing.
For one thing, it doesn’t really what your country’s positions is in the world, barring Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and some other anti-imperialist countries, a lot of Israel’s business presence on the world stage comes from selling high-tech components to supplement larger NATO and US military equipment such as fighter jets (which Israel provides the technologically advanced helmet systems for).
On top of these reports from the Israeli Export Institute, despite all the public hostility, Israeli-Turkish trade still remains at a beneficial level for both countries. This includes the previously mentioned military technology sales including upgrading Turkish tanks and planes, pilot exchange training programs, selling the Turks drones, and arming them with anti-ballistic missiles while Turkey sells the IDF basics like boots and uniforms. Although some of this exchange has stopped it is still illustrative of the close ties between Turkey and Israel and with Israelis saying trade between the two countries is still increasing, it shows that behind the bluster, business, for the most part, marches on.
The Israeli-Turkish domestic conundrum
The problem for both of these countries in the public eye is that basically both of them are struggling to maintain credibility in their own country. Netanyahu is still under threat of indictment and Erdogan has recently lost major cities in municipal elections, is fighting a sinking economy, and has dropping approval ratings. But at the end of the day, these two nations still share some of the same goals for the region such as curbing Iranian influence and crushing the Axis of Resistance (albeit for different motives). Turkey wants to be the leading voice in the Takfiri world while Israel attempts to maintain its own security in a region that universally hates it (and also seeks to weaponize Salafist militias).
The partnership between NATO member Turkey and US “greatest ally” Israel keeps Washington trying to keep both nations happy which should illustrate that Turkey and Israel truly do have similar ambitions even if they disagree publicly, but in the end, this means that the close relations will likely continue with most people too busy to notice after being distracted by public outbursts by their preferred Israeli of Turkish politician.
Image: Recep Erdogan: Wikimedia commons – Kobi Gideon
Netanyahu: Flickr – Global Panorama
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.