23 March 2013
JTW team has conducted an interview with Prof. Ihsan Bal, Head of USAK Science Committee, on Netanyahu’s apology and the new term of Turkish-Israeli relations.
How was the crisis overcome? What are the main reasons that convinced Netanyahu for the apology?
It could be stated that Turkish-Israeli relations will have a new term owing to the apology and the acceptance of the compensation by Netanyahu. The new term could be a transition from a sensitive and somewhat careless manner to a new, rational and realistic one.
Recalling Mavi Marmara tragedy, one can argue that the deterioration of the Turkish-Israeli relations taught each side of the conflict in a highly beneficial way and revealed the significance of their relations to both countries. First of all, Turkey maintained its decisive attitude and put its priorities such as apology, compensation and the withdrawal of Gaza blockade on the negotiation desk. Secondly, the efforts of U.S. President Obama can be accepted as one of the main dynamics that decrease the level of tension between Turkey and Israel and prevent the deterioration of the bilateral relations from turning into a stalemate. Thirdly, the role of actors in the second-track diplomacy such as civil society, think-tanks and wisdom men should be carefully considered within the context of normalization of the bilateral relations. Forthly, the strong belief of lobby groups and opinion-expressers for that the unresolved situation of the bilateral relations is not a gain for any sides of the dispute was rather crucial for this process. However, the main reason that made Netanyahu to accept apology and compensation is the awareness of Israel for its need to Turkey, because Israel has been getting lonely since the beginning of Arab Spring.
How do you evaluate the new term of Turkish-Israeli relations? What should be done for a permanent normalization of the bilateral relations?
Erdoðan’s acceptance of the apology and the compensation indicates that he was convinced by his colleague for the withdrawal of Gaza blockade. Hereby, it should be taken in mind that the verbal apology cannot be the case of international law, but it can be expected after the verbal apology that the legal procedures will be easily conducted with the efforts of both countries, because sensitive rhetoric and social perceptions are rather important for the Turkish-Israeli relations. Taking into consideration these realities, it can be deduced from the explanations that the political risks and costs are ventured by two countries.
Even though the bilateral relations were prevented from getting chronic, there are still steps to be taken by both governments. As the result of this process, the reopening of the Turkish embassy will pave the pay of increasing the level of bilateral relations from the aspect of Turkey. From the aspect of Turkey, at first, the concerns of Turkey should be overcome. The tragicomic problems such as low-chair crisis are still remembered clearly. In return, Turkey should consider the sensitiveness of Israel that feels itself in a stalemate in the Middle East and the existence of its statehood is not completely accepted, while Israel should try to improve relations by getting rid of its completely security-based perspective. Consequently, the last three years should be used as a case study by the foreign policy makers in order to enhance the Turkish-Israeli relations.
By Reyhan Güner