It was July 3, 2016, only a few days after the security cabinet had convened in Jerusalem and approved the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey. The bow of the Lady Leyla ship slipped into the breakwaters at the entrance of the Ashdod port. When the ship was safely ed to the dock, ten thousand tons of humanitarian aid sent by the Turkish government to the people of Gaza via Israel was unloaded. Twenty-four hours earlier, at the port ofMersin in southern Turkey, Turkish dignitaries had stood on the dock and applauded the signing of the agreement that enabled Turkey to “break the blockade” and assist the suffering people of the Gaza Strip. Media outlets in Turkey and in Israel adopted the narratives that were marketed by the respective leaders of their countries: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey (via the new Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. The television networks, internet sites and newspapers in the two countries covered the sailing voyage of the Lady Leyla. None of them bothered to emphasize the fact that Turkey could have sent aid to Gaza via the Port of Ashdod, subject to Israeli security inspection, even without the agreement that was signed at the end of negotiations that extended over six years.
Throughout that long, wasted period of ups and downs, agreements, disagreements and various crises, both sides dug themselves into their respective positions and refused to budge an inch. When the me was right, and the strategic decision to normalize relationship was taken both by Turkey and by Israel, the heretofore “critical” stumbling-blocks became negligible. Proving that when there’s a will, there’s a way.
This paper is part of the Israel-Turkey Policy Dialogue Publication Series of Mitvim and GPoT Center, in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.