To the surprise of many, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan says he wants normalization of relations with Israel. Erdogan told reporters en route back to Turkey, “This normalization process has a lot to offer to us, to Israel, to Palestine and also to the region.”
Erdogan is singing a much different tune than he did 18 months ago. In July 2014, Erdogan said Israel had “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”
So why the about face?
As with many things, it all boils down to money. Israel is embarking upon building a natural gas pipeline which will run through Greece, Cyprus and elsewhere in Europe and Turkey wants in. Turkey gets most of its energy from Russia in the form of oil, but there’s the small matter of Turkey shooting down Russian aircraft. This doesn’t exactly want to make Russia continue doing business with Turkey. So now Erdogan goes from comparing Israel to Hitler to, “Hey, old buddy, old pal. Let’s do business.”
Of course, Erdogan has preconditions. A) Apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 (already done); B) Provide compensation for the victims (Israel offered $20 million, but Turkey hasn’t accepted) and C) End the Gaza blockade (not gonna happen & besides Egypt is part of the blockade too). For his part, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says Turkey needs to A) Kick Hamas out of Turkey; B) grant immunity to the IDF soldiers involved in the Mavi Marmara incident and C) stop incitement against Israel.
Erdogan should have accepted Israel’s apology and their money long ago. But being the champion of Hamas paid more dividends for Erdogan – until now. I don’t think Israel should be in any hurry to normalize relations with Turkey especially as long as Erdogan and his Islamist party is in power. Besides if Israel does reciprocate it is bound not to make either Russia or Egypt particularly happy. If nothing else, Israel should make Erdogan sweat for as long as possible.