Joseph Dana writes: Turkey and Israel are close to agreeing on a full restoration of diplomatic ties after five years of hostility. The dispute began when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying Turkish activists attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, killing 10. The heavy-handed Israeli response had a dramatic effect on the Turkish public and provided Recep Tayyip Erdogan with an ideal scapegoat to advance his own regional policy. Now, the countries are close to becoming friends again, with economics, not ideology, driving the reconciliation.
In the years that followed the Mavi Marmara attack, Mr Erdogan fashioned himself as a regional champion of Palestinian rights. After the Arab Spring, Turkish leaders sensed a new regional order on the horizon and tried to capitalise on it. Mr Erdogan’s support for Hamas in Gaza, along with Turkey’s close cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, positioned Ankara as part of a new axis of power in the region.
The Turkish economy was strong and Istanbul was re-emerging as a global city. The national airline was opening new routes at a frenzied speed, bringing the world to Istanbul. Ankara aligned itself with the new regimes in the region and forcefully adopted an anti-Assad stance in Syria.
Mr Erdogan’s pro-Palestinian stance was a critical aspect of his new regional appeal. But attacking Israelis with rhetoric belied the deep economic relationship between the two countries. At the height of the standoff between Tel Aviv and Ankara, Turkish Airlines was the second-largest operator of flights out of Tel Aviv’s international airport. [Continue reading…]