Israel-Turkey Relations

March 2013
Policy Papers and Reports / Israel and the East Mediterranean

Summary of Mitvim’s activities towards mending the relations, August 2011-March 2013

Towards Mending Israel-Turkey Relations
Summary of Mitvim’s Activities
August 2011- March 2013

In the summer of 2011, as part of Mitvim’s “Opportunities in Change” project in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, Mitvim’s task-team acknowledged mending Israel-Turkey relations as one of the main opportunities for Israel revealed in the Arab Spring.

From that moment, at a timing in which negotiating teams from both countries worked to reach an agreement (which was eventually rejected), to March 2013, when an actual agreement was reached, Mitvim acted through different channels to enhance the relations between the Israel and Turkey.

This was not only because of the strategic importance in mending the relations, but also due to an understanding that ties with Turkey are crucial for Israel’s regional integration, for its ability to engage with political Islam, and for advancing peace.

We praise the agreement between the two countries and see it as an opportunity to share and review some of the major activities carried out by Mitvim on the subject.

1. In August 2011, prior to the Palmer Report’s publication and Netanyahu’s decision to reject the Israel-Turkey draft agreement formulated that summer, Mitvim submitted a policy paper (in Hebrew) to a number of relevant decision makers. It supported the agreement formulated with Turkey pointing at the advantages it held for Israel.

2. In early 2012, Dr. Nimrod Goren published an article in Insight Turkey, a leading policy journal in Turkey. The article reviewed Israel-Turkey relations in light of the Arab Spring, elaborated on the attempts to resolve the Flotilla crisis and analyzed Israeli responses to the further deterioration in relations in September 2011, following the publication of the Palmer Report.

3. In April 2012, in the midst of crisis between the countries and during an almost complete freeze in relations between the governments, Mitvim signed a cooperation agreement with the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) in Istanbul. Both think-tanks decided to conduct a joint policy dialogue in order to analyze the events of the Arab Spring, and indicate mutual interests for both countries and options for improving their bi-lateral relations.

4. In August 2012, Mitvim (together with the Rafi Smith Center) conducted a public opinion poll regarding Israel-Turkey relations. The poll showed surprising findings, according to which a majority of Israelis believed that Israel should take action in order to improve relations with Turkey, including the issuing of an apology on operational mistakes that took place during the Flotilla takeover, as part of an agreement between the two countries. These findings challenged the common apprehension in the Israeli political system that apologizing to Turkey would result in a high political cost for the performing leader.

5. In September 2012, Mitvim and the GPoT Center, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, carried out a policy dialogue in Istanbul. The meeting was attended from the Israeli side by Dr. Alon Liel, Dr. Nimrod Goren, Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi and Arik Segal. From the Turkish side it was attended by researchers, analysts, senior journalists, former ambassadors and retired generals. The meeting dealt with the consequences of the Arab Spring and the Syrian crisis, and the chances for mending Israel-Turkey relations. The meeting was widely covered by the Turkish media, and its conclusions were transmitted to key Israeli stakeholders.

6. In February 2012, Mitvim experts (Arik Segal, Dr. Ehud Eiran and Dr. Nimrod Goren) participated in an Israeli-Turkish civil society dialogue workshop, convened by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Tel Aviv. The workshop was dedicated to advancing the cooperation between non-governmental organizations in Israel and Turkey. This kind of cooperation was limited in scope even when the relations on the governmental level were normal, and the workshop assumed that increasing it can have a major contribution to the restoring of Israel-Turkey relations.

7. In late February 2012, just before the Israel-Turkey agreement was reached, Dr. Nimrod Goren published an op-ed calling for an overture to Turkey and highlighting a series of positive developments in Israel-Turkey relations that took place in the months before and that did not receive proper media attention. The op-ed claimed that the political atmosphere in Israel created a favorable environment for reaching an agreement between the countries, and indicated that President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel will be a good opportunity to do so.

Aside from these actions, Mitvim experts kept in constant touch with various Turkish partners, participated in international and bi-lateral conferences and workshops dealing with the issue, published articles and op-eds in Israeli and Turkish media outlets, and held meetings and briefings with politicians and diplomats. .

Now, when the agreement between Israel and Turkey has been finally reached, Mitvim will act to assist in the process of mending the relations, and to support the opportunities to advancing peace and dialogue with the Arab world that it creates for Israel’s regional policies.

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