Turkey And Israel, Frenemies Forever?

Much has changed, but some has not, in the complicated relationship between Israel and Turkey.

Joint US-Israeli-Turkish military exercises in 2009
Joint US-Israeli-Turkish military exercises in 2009
Fehim Tastekin

ISTANBUL Turkey is essential for Israel because it's a Muslim country that provided legitimacy to a Jewish state that the Arabs want destroyed. Turkey is strategically important for Israel because the skies of Konya were open to the Jewish state for air-fighter drills in case it might decide to strike Iran.

The two countries were destined to be close because they were, alas, the only secular democratic regimes in the greater Middle East.

These three explanations are among the clichéd credos of Turkish foreign policy, and all three were fabricated and exaggerated. Otherwise, how could Israel have dared to attack the Turkish Mavi Marmara aid ship in 2010, when Israeli forces killed 10 people aboard?

Israel acted according to its "rogue state" reflex and once more flaunted its immunity — thanks to the United States — despite the crime it committed in international waters. Israel predicted that no serious retaliation would come from Turkey and made the whole world see Turkey's capacity during an international crisis.

Now, there is an expectation that the arrest order for four Israeli commanders by an Istanbul court will send Israel into some kind of panic. Israeli officials have risked arrest in foreign countries before, and simply avoided traveling to those locations. But there is little reason for panic because Turkey's Foreign Ministry has reportedly promised its Israeli counterparts that it would ignore the court verdict and work instead on a new pact to normalize relations between the two countries.

New dynamics

Nevertheless, the conditions that once brought Turkey and Israel closer have changed. Turkey's mediation was needed to end Israel's hostilities with Syria over the occupation of Golan Heights. Today, Syria is less of a threat for Israel because it has been weakened by its civil war. Now, it's Turkey that needs mediators to improve its relations with Syria.

I met an Israeli professor in Oslo whose words are worth repeating: "For the first time, our Arab neighbors do not hold us responsible for an ongoing conflict," he said. "We are very happy about this situation."

Again, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hoped to use his influence and transform Hamas from a resistance movement to a peace partner. Turkey and Qatar managed to remove the political office of Hamas from Damascus during the Syrian crisis and tear it from the Syria-Iran coalition known as the "resistance axis."

Meanwhile, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was momentarily a potential problem for Israel, but that worry is gone since the coup; and Hamas lost its natural ally in Cairo in the process.

Then there are the plans for improving Turkey-Israel relations by selling natural gas to Europe through Turkey via a Mediterranean pipeline. This may also fail because of the alternative of stocking gas in Egypt and transporting it by ship.

Life has become much easier for Israel because of other developments in the region too. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was one of Israel's most significant enemies, is gone. And Sudan leader Omar al-Bashir acquiesces to the independence of South Sudan, an ally of Israel.

Still, considering what's happened since 2010, Israel has not been made to pay any serious toll for its flotilla raid. Commerce has actually doubled between Israel and Turkey over the last four years, and Turkey is now obliged to Israeli ports after severing ties with Syria and Egypt. Israel is making increasing profit from naval commerce with Turkey, given that Syria is not an option and serious problems occur at Egyptian ports. But this is an issue nobody talks about.

The Istanbul court verdict is of course very important for the Turkish victims, but it can't be said that it has pushed Israel into a corner. This is about Turkey's deterrent capacity and the will to apply it as effectively as Israel's talent for mitigating international pressure.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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