No, it’s not April 1. Israel and the Turkish government, led by anti-Semitic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have agreed to normalize relations after “six years of animosity” due to the 2010 Mavi Marmara ship.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım will formally announce the deal on Monday at 1PM local time (6AM ET).
Of course, this does not mean Erdoğan has changed his ways or views on Israel. It’s all about money.
Relations between the two came to a halt in 2010 after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stopped the Mavi Marmara as it attempted “to break the Israeli blockade on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” The raid killed 10 Turkish citizens. But as Professor Jacobsen pointed out at the time, Turkey could have delivered the supplies by land:
The flotilla was a collective human shield operation in which civilians, including reportedly including an 18 month old child, were put on the ships either to dissuade the Israelis from stopping the ships, or alternatively, to create an international incident. Prior to the flotilla launching, the leader of Hamas announced that it would be a triumph regardless of whether the flotilla landed or was stopped by Israel.
And it worked. While the exact death toll is not known as of this writing, when the Israelis attempted to board the ships, they were attacked and at least several passengers were killed.
Despite this, Israel has agreed to pay for damages. From Bloomberg:
Under the reconciliation agreement, the official said, Israel will pay Turkey $20 million compensation for the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens in the naval raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, in which the commandos faced violent resistance from activists on board. Turkey has abandoned its demand that Israel lift its naval blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is meant to keep weapons from reaching militants, the official said. Turkey will build a hospital and residential projects in Gaza, he added.
A formal reconciliation deal will be signed in a week or two, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper reported. On Wednesday, the agreement will be brought for approval before Israel’s inner cabinet of ministers with security responsibilities, which is expected to approve it, the newspaper said.
In 2013, President Barack Obama encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach out to the Turkish government. He apologized for the any “operational mistakes” on the flotilla, but Erdoğan said it wasn’t enough and used it to make Israel appear weak.
It didn’t do much to ease the tensions. In 2014, Erdoğan kept accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians and lashed out at other Muslim countries for not doing enough to protect those in Gaza. Then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu equated their actions to “ethnic cleansing.”
At the same time, Israel recalled their diplomats and their families due to anti-Jewish protests. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Turkish government did nothing to protect its citizens “as rocks were thrown at the Istanbul consulate and the Israeli flag was reportedly torn down and replaced with the Palestinian one at the Ankara embassy.”
But the new agreement means the Turkish government will not enable Hamas to conduct, plan or direct any military activity against Israel. A Hamas official claimed that Erdoğan reached out to the terrorist group and said he needed to make the deal “in order to save Turkey’s interests.” Now Israel and Turkey “will rebuild military and intelligence ties, which grew close in the 1990s and early 2000s, and send ambassadors back to each other’s capitals.”
So why the change of heart? Money, of course! Turkey has suffered a tad since they shot down a Russian warplane over Syria in November, which led to economic sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted the sanctions due to “national security” concerns and to protect “the national interests of the Russian Federation.”
The Turkish government “commissioned Russia’s state-owned Rosatom in 2013 to build four 1,200-megawatt reactors in a project worth $20 billion.” The TurkStream pipeline project could be affected as well, a project intended as a way to transport natural gas to Europe without going through Ukraine:
“There are a lot of Turkish companies operating in the construction business in the Russian market; there is cooperation in the tourism sector,” stated Dmitry Abzalov, the vice president of the Center for Strategic Communications. “The termination of relations with Moscow on these issues will be negative for the Turkish economy, and it will hit the national currency the lira.”
This new agreement could help Turkey’s energy needs since Israel has discovered natural gas fields off their coast. Experts have found that the Tamar and Leviathan fields are worth $25 billion. Israel recently signed a $15 billion deal with Jordan for natural gas.
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