Reports surfaced this week that Israeli officials have informed their Turkish counterparts that an improvement in bilateral relations between the two Middle Eastern powers is dependent on Ankara closing the Istanbul office of the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has vowed to annihilate the Jewish state.
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Israel shortly after it declared independence in 1948 and the two countries were, for decades, close friends and allies in the region. The alliance featured dozens of joint military exercises, diplomatic cooperation, trade and economic ties and intelligence sharing across a broad range of topics of mutual interest.
However, all that began to change in 2003 with the initial rise to power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Islamist roots and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization (of which Hamas is a Palestinian branch) soon led to a decline in relations.
This decline, gradual at first but becoming more pronounced with each passing year, has periodically featured an outright rupture - particularly after the Gaza Flotilla incident in 2010 - and although relations have fluctuated they have seldom been warm. Reports about the Hamas operations in Istanbul first came to light in late 2019, creating yet another point of contention.
However, with recent tensions between Ankara and several Western countries including France, Greece and Cyprus over natural gas reserves discovered in deep coastal waters, as well as pipelines which are meant to carry these resources to the European market, Turkey is incentivized to repair its relations with Israel.
As ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported last month, Erdogan has been making overtures to Israel, appointing a new ambassador even publicly stating his hope that the two countries can improve ties.
“Our heart desires that we can move our relations with them to a better point,” Erdogan said at the time.
Observers from around the region and in the capitals of major world powers will be closely watching to see if Erdogan and the Turkish government he leads will be willing to trade their protective relationship with Hamas for a less antagonistic relationship with Jerusalem amidst an escalating regional power struggle over energy and influence.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.