It won’t be like it was 10 or 20 years ago, when the alliance between Tel Aviv and Ankara represented the main concentration of power in the Middle East. Nonetheless, the reconciliation, which was signed Tuesday, will not only put an end to a fracture started six years ago when an Israeli commando approached a naval convoy belonging to the “Freedom Flotilla” with humanitarian aid for Gaza in international waters and killed passengers on the Mavi Marmara ferry. The peace between Erdogan, the Turkish leader, and Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, means also that the two Countries are in lockstep on key issues, from the war in Syria, to “containing” Iran, to the security and use of natural resources (gas).
They will also go back to carrying out joint military drills, Globes, the Israeli economic newspaper, reported Monday. The agreement with Turkey is “strategically important,” Netanyahu commented during a press conference in Rome where, between Sunday and Monday, he met John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister.
After six years, the Israeli Prime Minister emerges victorious from the long-lasting dispute with Ankara. He certainly had to give up on compensations ($20 million) for the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara, a step which has irritated not a few people in his right-wing majority. And, under American pressure, a short while ago, he reluctantly asked Erdogan forgiveness on behalf of his country for the murder of the 10 passengers.
But Israel is not going to revoke the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the point on which Erdogan was hitting and which has paralyzed the reconciliation for a long time. The humanitarian aid that Turkey is going to send to Gaza will be unloaded in the Israeli port of Ashdod for security checks as happens with all other merchandise bound for the Strip. Moreover, Turkey assumes the obligation, Netanyahu highlighted, not to criminally prosecute the Israeli soldiers involved in the massacre on the Mavi Marmara and to prevent armed organizations (meaning Hamas) from planning attacks against Israel in Turkish territory.
Turkey will also try to assist Israel in the talks to return to the families the bodies of two soldiers who died during the 2014 offensive against Gaza and to free two Israeli civilians (an Ethiopian Jew and a Bedouin) held prisoners in the Strip. Ankara, Netanyahu added, will ease Israel’s entrance in international organizations and will favor the development of bilateral economic relations, among them those related to using natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean.
You don’t to look hard to understand that the agreement represents a net defeat for Erdogan, who based part of his neo-Ottomanist strategy, aimed at taking the leadership of the Islamic Sunni world in conflict with Israel, even before the attack to the Mavi Marmara. The verbal clashes between the Turkish leader and Netanyahu are, by now, a thing of the past. The times have changed. In the Middle East, especially in Syria, things have gone sour for Erdogan, who now sees the Kurdish people’s aspirations as being realized (although still partially) while Bashar Assad, his enemy, is still in power in Syria.
And don’t forget the consequences of the recent clash between Ankara and Moscow. On Monday, Erdogan sent Vladimir Putin a letter of regret for having brought down a Russian fighter in November and invited him to “re-establish the traditional friendly relationships” between the two Countries, besides working together “in solving the regional crises and in fighting against terrorism.” Erdogan had refused to give that acknowledgment of the Russian role in Syria and in the Middle East for almost a year. Netanyahu himself suggested the course change, having flown to Moscow in recent months to meet with Putin.
Hamas is less pleased that Erdogan relented on the issue of the Gaza blockade. But there’s nothing its leaders can do, and for now they are thanking Turkey for its plans to build a hospital, a power station and a water desalinization plant in the Strip. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the agreement is a defeat for Khaleed Mashal, Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, who, just a few days ago, was in Turkey in a last-ditch effort to change Erdogan’s mind.
In 2012 Mashaal convinced Hamas leadership to abandon Syria and to put an end to the collaboration with Iran in order to embrace wealthy Qatar and powerful Turkey. In the end, Erdogan chose to re-launch the alliance with Israel, his country’s historical partner in strategies to control the region and with whom there could be future agreements related to Syria.
“Hamas, on one hand, must smile and, on the other hand, must hide its frustration,” Gaza analyst Saud Abu Ramadan tells il manifesto. “It has a desperate need for Turkish humanitarian aid to recover the consensuses it lost in Gaza, but it must also swallow the failed revocation of the Israeli blockade which was, and still remains, the key of its strategy and of its success.”
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