Turkish-Israeli reset

Reports of rapprochement talks between Turkey and Israel are most welcome. Ankara, which is rewriting its regional policy in the backdrop of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s third-term victory, will find itself on a firm foot as it bargains out a deal with Tel Aviv.

Their relations had hit all-time low after the bloody storming of the flotilla aid vessel in May 2010, and since then a stalemate has been there. Consecutive attempts to mend the fences had ended in a deadlock, as Turkey has long been insisting on holding Israel accountable for the bloodbath on foreign vessels in the high seas. What new agenda or mandate the respective officials enjoy as they exchange notes is not difficult to guess. Their primary intention would be to patch-up and reinstate the understanding that both the naval powers have in the region, and subsequently further the military cooperation.

Given the political strings attached with the relationship, it is not going to be smooth sailing. Turkey, which has always been a frontline state in speaking for the rights of the Palestinians, will have to do some critical balancing in not only pressing the reset button in its relations with the Jewish state, but also in re-strategising the agenda as the issue of statehood for Palestinians comes up at the United Nations General Assembly this September. Irrespective of the deal that is stuck while restoring normalcy in their ties, Ankara will find itself politically locked down in its endeavour to hold Israel accountable for the killing of its nine citizens on board the Mavi Marmara. The diplomatic-lego tangle won’t be easy to undo without the intervention of their respective political hierarchies. Similarly, to appease Turkey, which is now a force to be reckoned with, as it stands tall in the wake of Arab Spring openly campaigning for freedom, democracy and human rights, Israel will have to reevaluate its off-the-cuff inquiry report that absolved itself of committing crimes in international waters. Such a measure will not only be a source of relief for Turkey, but will go a long way in re-casting Israel’s image among its Arab neighbours.

Nothing short of taking to task soldiers who killed Turkish volunteers would come as a consolation on the diplomatic front. The choice is either to patch-up with humbleness or risk rupture. Turko-Israeli reconciliation shouldn’t be limited to flotilla aid mess, and must encompass regional dialogue.

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