Now is the time for peace
İLBER ORTAYLIThe state of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948. Back then, Israel was made up of Russian Jewish immigrants, Jews from the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary and Romania, and also from Germany-Austria and Czechoslovakia. The true founders of Israel were Austria, Germany and Czech Jews. They were legal people, natural scientists. The technical university (Technion) they set up in Haifa demonstrated the advanced technical power and engineering of this new country.
The State of Israel was recognized by the West. The Soviet Union and Turkey were among the first states to recognize Israel.
Turkey’s recognition of Israel has always been criticized, but today this is all forgotten. Particularly during Avigdor Lieberman’s period as Israeli foreign minister, the rudeness against our ambassador completely contradicted state protocol and the spirit of historic relations. What’s more the “one minute” show deemed proper for President Shimon Peres at Davos hit relations. Now, we are getting back to where we started.
There is one aspect that neither those who rule Israel right now nor we understand: Whether we like it or not, we should know that it is not possible for us to clash in this region in terms of trade and diplomacy. Israeli diplomacy may even compete with some of our certain segments in not being able to grasp this fact.
Russian-Turkish friendship, on the other hand, started with the Congress of Berlin in 1878. This was a time of showdown between Alexander II of Russia and Mithat Pasha. When the Berlin Treaty was signed, one of Russia’s greatest foreign ministers, Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov, grumbled that all the troops and the money spent in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) had been in vain. His anger was mostly directed at St. Petersburg for not seeing this disastrous situation coming.
Alexander II was later assassinated and Alexander III ascended to the throne in 1881. He was seeking peace. He and his Ottoman counterpart, Abdülhamid II, both opted for peace. Without going as far as staging mutual visits, peace shows or speeches, they entered a quiet and long period of peace. During this period before the First World War, transport, industrialization and the advancement of educational institutions progressed at an unprecedented pace.
There are no perfect metaphors in history, but Russia and Turkey were also like this after 1989. They had just completed a long and tiresome Cold War era, in which they were on opposite sides. Within a generation, Russia was filled with factories and businesses of Turkish entrepreneurs. Turkey got used to idea of Turks being educated, training and working in Russia, as well as their Russian brides. In certain years, trade with Russia even surpassed our top trading partner Germany.
Russia may have its own interests in the dispute in Syria, even though we may not agree. Turkey’s interests in Syria, and Turkey’s targets throughout the turmoil, however, are not clear to anyone but former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. With both countries facing countless domestic issues over their vast geography, they have no option but to strengthen ties by conducting business together. The confusion fueled by those who cannot understand this has unfortunately inflicted huge harm on Turkey, the Middle East, and Russia, which remains a significant power.
Now, Moscow and Ankara are working to come back together. In the end, everyone apart from these three states - Turkey, Israel and Russia – benefits from disputes between them. Nevertheless, there are many other observers who are uncomfortable about this apparent temporary peace. As always, first peace, then diplomacy and politics...