Relations with Israel are again going underground

Relations with Israel are again going underground

Turkey and Israel are not in a situation of divorce or hostility, according to American intelligence expert George Friedman.

Looking at Ankara’s rhetoric, it sounds a bit weird. But when you see the next line in his statement things start making sense: “You are in a situation in which certain relationships continue, but in which public diplomacy shifts to where Turkey can take advantage of other relationships.”

Listening to him created a flashback for me. From the inception of Israel to the full normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations in the early 1990s, a look at five decades of relationships between the two countries tells us that contacts have continued despite Turkey’s condemnation of Israel at the United Nations and other official bodies. Turkey’s rhetoric regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue gave the impression that relations have been far more hostile than was actually the case. Throughout the years, political, commercial and especially military contacts have secretly been maintained at the expense of cultural/social interaction where visibility is unavoidable.

It seems that Turkish-Israeli relations will go from overt to covert once again. We will continue to see strong anti-Israeli rhetoric, yet contacts, even on strategic issues, will continue. But keeping them secret will be more difficult.

Turkey’s role in U.S./NATO missile defense plans is already proving to be a challenge to the secrecy in Turkish-Israeli ties.

In contrast to the views of the government opponents led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey has not accepted the radar system to protect Israel whose paranoia would never have allowed it to rely on others to protect itself. Israel has had its own missile defense system.

 Turkey does not have a missile shield even though it remains one of the countries most exposed to missile threat. Turkey agreed to host the radar system because of its national interest.

While Israel has its own nuclear shield, it will obviously not object to additional assets to improve its own system; the compatibility of the U.S. and Israeli systems are no secret.

Ankara’s statements that data collected at the radar site will not be shared real-time with Israel will remain just rhetoric.

When we are talking about NATO’S missile shield we are talking about the integration of the U.S. System to that of NATO, which means there will be gray areas as to what degree NATO will have total ownership of the system. It is that gray area at which the government will be turning a blind eye.

Kadri Gürsel, who has been writing about the subject, suggests that Turkey needs to sign an agreement with the U.S. to prevent data-sharing with Israel. I doubt that Turkey will put this rhetorical demand on paper because data-sharing is a two-way street and the data collected by Israel could serve the interests of NATO members. That’s why NATO’s secretary general recently said the decision has not been made yet on whether Israel will establish missions at NATO headquarters, a demand that has been objected to by Turkey because the real-time challenge of interpreting and responding to simultaneous missile threats to Malatya, Ankara, Paris and Denmark requires the use of all assets available, even those of non-NATO members.

Ultimately, realities on the ground will not allow for a total breakup of bilateral ties with Israel; instead they will go underground.