It would be important to cover the report titled “Turkey as a Major Challenge for Israel (and its neighbors) in the 21st century” published on 16th September by the think-tank called Jerusalem Institute for Strategy&Security (JISS), while there are some that advocates for a normalization with Tel Aviv administration in Turkey, with the principle of “There are no permanent alliances and rivalries, there are only interests”.
Before going in details of the report, let us note here that the Publisher institution JISS was described by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “important component in strengthening the Israeli State”.
The three composers of the report, is made up of very important individuals:
Professor Efraim Inbar: Other than his membership of faculty for Bar Ilan University, he is also an advisor for the Israeli Army. He is a member of the Chatham House,
(Retired) Colonel Erman Lerman: Former Deputy for Foreign Policy at Israels’ National Security Council,
Dr.Eitan Cohen: A Kurdish Studies Expert in a think-tank called Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
The purpose of the report is to investigate the Turkish trends in domestic and foreign policies.
In this article, we will examine the conclusions on the report that is about the Turkish domestic and foreign policy, especially the policies in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the chapters titled “Recommendations for Israeli policy” and “Recommendations on Overall Israeli policy”, in which possible steps against Turkey are suggested.
‘TURKEY’S CHANGE WILL CONTINUE EVEN AFTER ERDOGAN’
First of all, let us stress again that the title of the report is “Turkey as a Major Challenge for Israel (and its neighbors) in the 21st century”.
The report begins with the sentence “Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey threatens the stability of the region and Israel’s interests too”. While Israeli experts say that Turkey has found a larger field of action in foreign policy after the end of the Cold War, they also say that the recent isolationist policies of the United States has presented opportunities for Ankara at this point.
While Turkish military bases in Iraq, Syria, Qatar and Somalia and its activities in the Balkans are considered a threat to the regional stability, the EEZ agreement between Turkey and Libya is also considered as a challenge to Greece, as well as an obstacle in front of Israel, Egypt and Greek Cyprus, and their plans to pump the Mediterranean gas to Europe.
The main idea of the report is given in the statements for the political changes in Turkey shifts in its foreign policy, “that will not disappear even when the Erdoğan era ends”.
The most notable conclusion in the introduction of the report is that Turkey, gradually distanced itself from the West despite having remained a member of the NATO alliance.
The report details Turkey’s shift away from the Atlantic alliance by giving various examples, including the 2003 Turkish parliament’s crisis on transit of U.S. forces through Iraq and the Turkish-Russian rapprochement.
The report, which focuses on the controversies between the AKP and Kemalist groups in domestic politics, it describes the AKP as the Turkish version of the Muslim Brotherhood. AKP’s relationship with Hamas is also being evaluated in this regard.
It would be especially important to underline the following statements used by the Israeli experts, while comprehensively addressing the Turkish domestic politics:
“The authorities have brutally persecuted the competing and more moderate religious faction of Fethullah Gulen.”
“For Erdogan and the AKP, the question of economic growth has turned into an Achilles’ heel.”
“The regime became more and more authoritarian (and personal).”
“These developments indicate that the AKP’s hegemony is not necessarily irreversible.” About the defeat in the local elections and the fracturing of the AKP.
“In any case, the economy will top the order of priorities for the Turkish voter.”
Let us also mention that FETO (Fethullah Terrorist Organisation) is mentioned as a moderate movement and a potential ally for Israel in the following sections of the report.
‘THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS AT INCIRLIK BASE WILL BE TAKEN OUT’
In the part that reviews the Turkish foreign policy, with the refusal in 2003 to approve the transit of U.S. forces through its territory to Iraq, Turkey began to shift away from the West.
The report says while the shift continues to accelerate, even though the US indeed still maintains an important airbase at Incirlik, in which thermonuclear weapons are kept, it is claimed that they now need to be taken out “for maintenance”.
The claim that thermonuclear weapons will be taken out from Incirlik Base, will be a breaking point in US-Turkish relations.
While it is said that the US allies on the ground both in Iraq and Syria are Kurds affiliated with the PYD, and not the Turks, the report clearly states that the United States does not trust Turkey.
The report concludes that Turkey’s main focus on the foreign policy is the Eastern Mediterranean, it also assesses that Turkey’s EEZ agreement with Libya is against Israeli interests. It is argued that because of this agreement, the transfer of the Israeli gas to Europe will be difficult.
Another interesting conclusion in the report is that there are two different sides against Turkey, within the United States: “On the one hand, strongly pro-Turkish elements in key positions in the administration, and, on the other, the prevailing mood in Congress (which shows increasing hostility to Turkey) and among those in Trump’s circle who are attentive to Israel, Egypt, and the UAE..”
While the Israeli experts say the United States should take a tougher anti-Turkish attitude on the Eastern Mediterranean, they stress the growing risk of war in the region.
WHAT SHOULD ISRAEL DO?
In the chapter “Recommendations for Israeli Policy”, it is stated that Turkey has taken a pragmatic approach to Israel so far, and the Israeli government should be equally pragmatic and pursue policies that “will not make Turkey an active enemy.”
And they suggest the use of rhetoric that sharpens “a distinction between Turkey’s current leader and the Turkish society as a whole” when doing so.
French President Macron, in a similar way to the statements in the report, had criticized President Erdogan, while trying to send positive messages to the Turkish nation.
Another interesting assessment in the report is that the secular circles in Turkey and Gulenists are supporting good relations with Israel.
The FETO point is quite understandable, but the meaning of the groups or individuals by saying “secular circles” remains vague.
The report suggests the continuation of the Israeli propaganda that agreements between Greek Cyprus, Greece and Israel In the Eastern Mediterranean “would not exclude Turkey if its leadership cooperates”.
It is obvious that a perception that Israel holds no hostility against Turkey, is trying to be created among the Turkish public by this kind of discourses .
‘ERDOGAN’S ACHILLES HEEL ECONOMY’
The report also suggests what means can Israel use in order to “restrain” Turkey.
The economy comes first on the list.
Israeli experts describe Turkish economy as “Erdogan’s Achilles Heel”. And they are processing the data in the Turkish economy in detail after the Covid-19, as it turned negative.
The composers of the report say that the Trump government can be directed to take tougher steps against Turkey, by lobbying in the United States and they are making a call for it.
Israel’s attitude in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially EastMed, points out that their recommendations in the report were already implemented a long time ago.
The report says that Israel could move against Turkey along with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Greece and France, while Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo could also be used to break Turkish influence in the Balkans.
The report claims that Russia is uncomfortable with Turkey’s activities related to the Muslim minority living on Russian territory. They suggest that Moscow could be drawn into an anti-Turkish camp over this the disturbance.
While the report calls on the Israeli government to reshape the country’s intelligence and military structure against Turkey, they also underline the need for countermeasures against the Turkish Navy.
‘TURKEY’S CHANGE IS PERMANENT’
We can clearly see that Israel perceives Turkey as a challenge to its interests in the region, as even the title of the report reveals, when we inspect the entire report, which written by individuals closer to Israeli state officials.
It is obvious that the political, military and economic tools mentioned in the report will be used to target not only the government, but Turkey as a whole when necessary.
The main idea in the report is that Turkey’s momentum to shift away from the West will continue even if the government changes.
There will be some who say “only a think-tank report does not reflect the politics of the Israeli government.” when details of this report are published in the future.
I suggest they examine the steps taken by Israel from northern Syria to Libya, and to memorize the Head of Mossad Yossi Cohen’s statements that “Turkey is a greater threat to Israel than Iran”.
The report is a basic summary of Israeli policies on Turkey.
What is new, is that the realization by the outside sources that Turkey’s anti-Western shift is not because of Erdogan or the AKP, but because of Turkey’s dynamics.
I hope that, a response from Turkey against such reports and activities would emerge from both the government and opposition groups.
Let us note here once again that the rapprochement with Israel, means getting trapped into the NATO’s cage again.