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GÜVEN SAK > Mending Israel-Turkey ties

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I was in Israel last week, right after Israel’s apology for any wrongdoing during the Mavi Marmara incident. Indeed, Turkey deserved an apology for the incident long ago, but ultimately it was the Obama factor that made it come through. It was under the watchful eyes of President Obama himself that Prime Minister Netanyahu finally read the text to Prime Minister Erdoğan over the telephone. His voice did not sound happy, but he finally did the right thing. The apology text was agreed on over a year ago but only now, after the Israeli elections, did Netanyahu finally give in and read it. There was a sense of relief; not only in political but also in business circles, not only in Israel and the U.S. but also in Turkey and Palestine. However, without Obama in action, I believe that we would not have gotten the apology.

Israeli-Turkish commercial relations have not been affected much by the political crisis. However, the number of Israeli tourists dropped from more than 500,000 a year to a meager less than 50,000.

Basically, it was bad for the Antalya region. Before the crisis, Turkey was the second top destination of Israeli tourists - the top destination being the United States, where Israeli tourists find themselves secure and safe - but not any more. Feelings of insecurity echoed in the Israeli media, even among Turkish Jews. The apology itself is only the first step to start mending fences, there are still many things that need to be done. If you ask me, this time around there needs to be more on the people-to-people relations front. It is not only about apologizing and paying compensation.

The recent private Israeli initiative that allowed for Turkish trucks to pass through Israel to reach the Gulf must be noted as a positive step. With the ongoing Syrian crisis, Turkish trucks carrying containers have not been able to get down to the Gulf. Iraq was not safe and then Syria became unsafe too. The unrest in Port Said and the continuing security problems in Sinai after the fall of Mubarek did not allow Turkish containers to follow the İskenderun-Port Said-Sinai-Aqaba route. It was already an expensive journey and – with the additional safety problems - the route became un-operational. However, with a private Turkish initiative, the Israeli government has started allowing Turkish trucks to enter Israel from Haifa and then travel over the ElKhalil bridge to Jordan. This is a cheaper and safer route. Today, about a hundred trucks a week use this route. The potential is for around 500 trucks per week if visa conditions improve. This is good for Turkish outreach to the Gulf. It just happened by itself, thanks to a private Turkish-Israeli-Jordanian initiative. So, it seems that mending fences is not going to be that hard after all.

Another reason why mending fences may not be that hard? Let me tell you why I was in Israel last week. I was there to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC). Despite the two-decade-long history of the Oslo Accords, never before has a private business-to-business arbitration mechanism has been established between Israel and Palestine. Now, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Israel and ICC in Palestine have come together to establish the JAC, to solve Israeli-Palestinian business disputes. More importantly, they invited Mr. Rifat Hisarcıkılıoğlu, the President of the Turkish Chamber Federation (TOBB) and a businessman himself, to become the president of JAC. Turks are back in Jerusalem as arbitrators, as Munib al-Masri, the Head of ICC-Palestine said during the ceremony. Another reason to be hopeful.

I found the mood in Ramallah to be as defiant as the one in Diyarbakır during the Newroz celebrations.

The U.N. decision definitely seems to have focused the Palestinians on state building and economic development, but that is a different story that needs to be told separately.

March/30/2013

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Dogan AKTAS

5/5/2013 10:07:41 AM

What this charade of Erdoğan-Obama and Netanyahu shows is, you can kill Turkish civilians as long as you pay cash. The apology is nowhere near justice, I havent heard any soldiers being questioned for murder.

Vargen Vargen

3/31/2013 9:08:55 PM

Erdogan has to stop contacts with Hamas now. It is impossible to build ties with Israel if you at the same time are best buddies with a terrorist organisation which constantly attacks Israel.

jim handley

3/31/2013 7:32:54 PM

@Mark Tak - you are making up a narrative that doesn't make sense. Do you really think an elite squad of Israeli commandos would kill innocent Turks in their sleep? Do you think the video that shows the violent Turk Islamists was doctored? Might be a good idea to question your beliefs a bit. Were you there? Do you absolutely know that your narrative is correct?

Mark Tak

3/30/2013 10:24:08 PM

Rich Bind sir, who cares what PM and FM of both countries do right now , they do what the big boss wants them to do, US Turkey is not trying to humiliate Israel, Israel already humilated Turks by killing them n open waters 5 am landing on them when they were sleeping in the dark armed and Turks fougt back, and U think nothing of it, no matter if we agree with the protesters point of wiev or not ,state has no right to kill protesters it could be charged same as murder ans Israel known this fact,

suat yildirim

3/30/2013 10:51:50 AM

All my working life I deal with many different nationality's in daily life. Not ones I had unpleasant situation with any one. Does not matter where you come from or nationality what is mutter is .Every body want to live nice and peace foo ll life.

rich bind

3/30/2013 6:04:04 AM

Your PM & FM do not appear to share your optimistic view of recent events. They assert that the apology proves that they can make Israel do what they want. Polls show that Turks, with prodding from the government, dislike Israelis. I would not await a flood of Israeli tourists. Under the settlement Turkey has obligations too, I would not hold my breath for Turkey to uphold its end of the deal, they will find an (any) excuse to renew relations, its good public relations to hate Israel.

Mark Tak

3/30/2013 5:42:08 AM

Liebarman is a Russian Jew and somany in Israel far right are Russian Jews,president Clinton said it last year Russian Jews are problem in Israel's image, like the ultra religious Turls in Turkey are the problems of Turkey, so lets not get those people to ruin a friendship since Khazarian empire and 1492 Spanish masssacare Turks demanded the Jews from Spain or else, Pm s comes and goes but pwoplw of Turkey and Israel should always be a friend like i said Turks and Jews are Blood brothers

Mark Tak

3/30/2013 5:38:04 AM

Turks should never forget few facts, one Jews and Turks are blood brothers from Khazarian empire look it up, second since Suleyman Kanuni allowed Jewish imgration to Ottoman Empire Empire flourished in Trade and commmernce, Jews were very loyal to Turks, even today In US we the Turks always can count on the Jewish friends to watch out backs, and never ever they talked ill about Turks, Jews are historical friend of Turks, they never forget an enemy or a friend,Russian Jews are the problem today

Murat

3/30/2013 12:18:23 AM

Hope is a good thing, but as lo g as Israel continues with its current policies in ME, there will never be going back to the good old days between the Jewish state and Republic of Turkey. It really does not matter who governs in Turkey. This does not mean the two have to be at each others throats of course.
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