Time to end the 'cold war' between Turkey and Israel
With Iran nuclear talks stalled, Syria downing a Turkish fighter jet, and uncertainty following the Arab Spring, there has never been a more important time for Turkey and Israel to end their 'cold war.' They can begin with a compensation deal over the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident.
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There should be no return to an inquiry into the Mavi Marmara events; by now the discussion is too politicized to reconcile the competing versions of what took place. Instead, the two should agree to a joint Israeli-Turkish commission, possibly with American participation, to explore the forms of compensation and what other, if any, measures might be taken. The commission should be staffed not by politicians but by legal scholars or practitioners who are free from the constraints of domestic political considerations.Skip to next paragraph
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Trade ties should also be increased as an action separate from the political sphere (this has, in fact, been gradually happening since the outbreak of tensions in 2010). More routinized trade missions should be established, in which select industries take turns traveling to each other’s countries to meet with counterparts.
New mutually beneficial commercial opportunities should be seized, including investment in Turkey, construction in Israel, and joint development projects. Given its growing private sector, Turkey has a potentially large pool of skilled labor that can be tied to Israel’s biomedical and green-energy sectors.
Goodwill gestures and confidence-building measures are also necessary. Given Turkish sensitivities over Cyprus, Israel should involve Turkey in some of the economic decisionmaking when dealing with the development of offshore gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. This would ease Turkish suspicions that Israel is out to encircle it. And cancelled defense contracts between the two countries should also be restored. That would provide Turkey with the military technology it has been seeking elsewhere while sending the message that Israel does not view Turkey as a military foe.
In return, Ankara should stop making public demands on Israel regarding Mavi Marmara and use less accusatory language when referencing Israeli behavior in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It should also resume its bid to be a neutral arbiter and offer to host Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in an effort to make a positive contribution to the peace process.
Washington can help this reconciliation process by finding areas of general agreement and encouraging Israelis and Turks to coordinate on them. This will restore trust and an effective working relationship between Turkey and Israel. American interests are served by a stable Middle East, and having the two strongest countries in the region mend their relationship can further that goal.
Michael J. Koplow is a Ph.D. candidate in government at Georgetown University, where he writes on political development and Middle East politics. He blogs at Ottomans and Zionists. You can follow him on Twitter.
Brent E. Sasley is assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he teaches and writes on Middle East and Israeli politics. He blogs at Mideast Matrix.You can follow him on Twitter.