Ankara (GPA) – With the battle of Idlib causing tension between Turkey and Russia, it now seems Erdogan is looking to repair relations with Israel after multiple diplomatic spats in recent months.
It seems some of Turkey’s maneuvers to move out of the western orbit are coming up short once again, as reports have begun circulating that the country is now working to repair their relations with Israel now that Turkish President Recep Erdogan is in some hot water with Moscow over the fate of the “rebels” in Idlib, Syria. While Turkey may be working with Russia and Iran to some extent in Syria, it should still have been obvious that they still value the long-time partnership they’ve had with Tel Aviv.
Now after several months of public shouting matches between Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reports are circulating that closed-door talks have begun to repair relations between the two major US allies.
The Turkey-Israel falling out
While there have been problems brewing between Benjamin Netanyahu with his far-right Likud party and Recep Erdogan with his Muslim Brotherhood offshoot Justice and Development Party (AKP) for years now, the latest major falling out happened in May of this year.
Most of the contention between these two US allies came after the announcement was made by US President Donald Trump that he would be moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognizing the city as the capital of the occupiers. Since Erdogan is leading a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, clearly he couldn’t accept this publicly for fear of losing some of his most dedicated supporters on the religious right. This ended up resulting in a war of words between Netanyahu and Erdogan that only escalated as time went on.
Everything really came to a head as the Palestinian Right to Return protest at the Israeli wall on the border of Gaza, as thousands of Palestinians came out to protest for an end to the occupation as well as the criminal sanctions on Gaza. During these protests, several videos went viral worldwide showing the brutality of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) opening fire on multiple unarmed protestors, medics, and journalists.
Following this, Erdogan spoke up for Gaza – although his sincerity is impossible to judge – and rightly called out Israel for being a terrorist state and Netanyahu as the head of the entire criminal operation. Netanyahu ended up firing back and, also rightfully, called Erdogan and the AKP terrorists for their collaboration with a variety of jihadi groups in the region.
This escalating war of words finally came to a head when Erdogan and Netanyahu finally had to do something to appeal to their respective voter bases. Following the deaths at the Gaza border wall, it was Erdogan who acted first, expelling Israel’s diplomatic staff in Turkey. Netanyahu then retaliated by doing the same for Turkey’s envoys.
Making all of this more complicated is the fact that these events all happened against the backdrop of US-Turkey relations began circling the drain for a myriad of reasons. While the treatment of Israel is on Trump’s list of grievances with Erdogan Washington is really more worried about things like Turkey’s attempts to give new life to relations with Russia and Iran, Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 Air Defense System and the threats that may pose to the new F-35 stealth fighter.
Turkey’s attempted turn East
However, it seems that now that the Syrian war is coming to a close, the contradictions between Turkey’s new relations with Russia and Ankara’s agenda in Syria are coming to a head. This has been evident throughout the last several high profile battles in Syria, in which Turkey has backed the Al-Qaeda allied “opposition” groups who usually occupy besieged cities. You may know these groups as the ones who have their “plight” broadcast through western media via their Turkish-trained PR wing, The White Helmets.
The White Helmets are the perfect illustration of Turkey’s conflicting agenda in Syria. While Turkey trained and facilitated the movement of the “humanitarian” group into Syria, it was Israel that recently helped evacuate a number of their ranks back into western countries.
Turkey’s conflicted allegiances are still on display now as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is waiting to resolve the occupation of Idlib by terrorist forces. Helping these terrorists on the other side is Turkey, which was tasked with overseeing the de-escalation zone around Idlib in talks with Russia and Iran. While Turkey has failed in their mission to keep conflict to a minimum in this area (which was the site of rampant jihadist infighting), they have managed to ship in tons of weapons and supplies to help the supposed “people of Idlib” prepare to hold of the siege of the city by Russia’s allies in Damascus.
Once again, the picture in Idlib reflects a greater problem with Turkey if they’re truly trying to move out of the US orbit. Their support for terrorist groups in Syria doesn’t show any signs of letting up. Even if Turkey does successfully avoid a bloody fight for Idlib as they’re trying to work out with Russia, many of these fighters will be leaving Syria headed to God only knows where. Israel also supports several of these same terror groups in Syria and will likely also help facilitate an evacuation if it comes to that, once again showing that Tel Aviv and Ankara’s policies are intertwined, sometimes even unintentionally.
With Syria having the potential to throw Turkey-Russia relations back into the gutter it now seems that Ankara has decided to make sure they have a plan B by attempting to repair their relations with Israel (and likely other western countries). While Erdogan clearly doesn’t want too many people to know about this since Ankara was trying to keep the talks under wraps, the word is out and this should be a red flag for some of those analysts and readers who think Turkey is in the midst of some great shift away from the west.
Turkey has a lot invested militarily in support from NATO, but beyond that, Israel is also one of Ankara’s key partners in high-end military technology. Israel makes many key components for NATO (aka Turkish) military equipment. While Turkey does have a large domestic arms industry they are still heavily reliant on shared knowledge with NATO and friends. The contradictions between Turkish and Russian ambitions are glaring and if Ankara doesn’t make some concrete steps to change this soon, it is almost inevitable they’ll likely come to ask for help from whoever will listen in the west.
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.