Turkey’s new position and Israel’s interests
NİHAT ALİ ÖZCANWe are witnessing multi-faceted changes triggered by the Arab Spring. Changing balances and weakening state structures create risks for some and opportunities for others. We are focusing mostly on countries and incidents separately, but when taken as a whole, we could recognize that incidents have the capacity of producing results that are more complicated than they seem.
Even if it seems to be off the agenda nowadays, Turkey-Israeli relations are brought to the forefront, when required, as a “public diplomacy issue” rather than a political reality because, in light of the regional political developments, there are significant clues about the course of the relations between the two countries that differ from official statements. I would like to focus on how the changing character of Turkey-Iran and Turkey-Syria relations serves Israel’s interests. Indeed regional developments bring new opportunities.
Turkey has increasingly been pursuing an aggressive policy toward Syria. The Turkish government supports a regime change in Syria. For this purpose, it also supports the emerging anti-Syrian international coalition to the full extent. Unless a miracle is performed, the regime will be demolished following an unforeseeable period. The new era seems most likely to serve Israel rather than Turkey, which took so many risks with its policy. I will explain why.
In Syria, both the regime change and the consolidation of the new regime will give Israel a chance for taking revenge on Hezbollah, which it postponed. A period, in which the former regime is demolished and a new government is in search of balance within the country, means a great strategic advantage for Israel, because Hezbollah will be both psychologically and physically isolated. In other words, it will lose its strategic backyard and logistical advantages.
Note that Israel, not wanting to miss such an opportunity, has been preparing for a new war for some time. In order not to repeat 2006 mistakes in the war against Hezbollah, Israel continues to test its capabilities in Gaza, improving its technical capacity. It is clear that Israel wants to hit Hezbollah where it hurts with the experience gained in Gaza. As a matter of fact, uncertainties following the collapse of the Syrian regime might provide Israel with this opportunity.
A similar situation might be applicable to Hamas. For the Hamas leadership, regime change in Syria means losing a “safe haven” of strategic importance. This might push Hamas to a more reconciliatory line.
On the other hand, the collapse of the Syrian regime will remove Iran physically from the region. Iran will lose its greatest strategic ally in the region. Thus, Israel would be able to add a new dimension to its troubled strategic depth.
Turkey’s contribution to the construction of the Missile Defense Radar System represents a turning point in its position with respect to the Iran question. Although Turkey tells different stories on its own public opinion, Iran and Israel know very well what this means. It is not a surprise that the generals of the Revolutionary Guards voice open threats against Turkey. Israel is no longer the only target of Iran. Turkey is now standing by Israel’s side. So, even though Israel has not apologized for Mavi Marmara yet, when the time comes, it will thank Turkey for all these contributions.