Background to Tragedy: The Decline of Turkish-Israeli Relations
When one looks at the trouble-ridden relations between Israel and Turkey today, it may be difficult to imagine that the two countries viewed each other as close partners less than two years ago. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Israel. Israel had close relations with the United States, and as such, constituted a natural regional friend for Turkey during the cold war. But as Turkish governments wanted to develop new relations in the Arab and Muslim world or expand existing ones, Turkey’s closeness to Israel often constituted an important limitation. As part of Turkey’s efforts to achieve “zero problems with neighbors,” the country reached out to Israel and Syria for talks in 2008. However, these efforts collapsed with the Israeli attack on Gaza in December of that year. Feeling stung, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan concluded that Israel was not interested in peace, a view apparently confirmed by the Mavi Marmara incident. The Turkish-Israeli relationship may be encountering the possibility of being irreparably damaged, although it is doubtful that either side will benefit from it.