Now that Erdogan is firmly in power, what is Israel's Turkish dilemma? - opinion

Published date02 June 2023
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
In a statement that Netanyahu's office put out, the incoming prime minister said that he agreed with Erdogan "to work together to launch a new era in ties between Turkey and Israel" and after Erdogan's victory in the second round of elections on Sunday, that "new era" has now come

Both leaders are now solidly in their leadership roles – as solid as one can be in the Israeli political system – and both now have an opportunity to confront some of the tough and challenging issues on their nation's joint agenda. The first and foremost is gas.

With Erdogan now in office for another five years and possibly longer, the expectation in Jerusalem is that it is only a matter of time before he invites Netanyahu for a visit to Ankara. It is there that he will want to discuss ways to get his hands on Israel's gas and to serve as the main energy conduit from the eastern Mediterranean to mainland Europe.

In Israel, there is already a debate within government and defense circles about what to do, whether the country can rely on Turkey and if it is safe to put its gas in the hands of a man who not that long ago was one of the most vile and vocal antisemites in the world.

"It would be a huge mistake to send the gas through Turkey and have Erdogan's finger on the Israeli faucet," explained one former top defense official who until not that long ago was intimately involved in Israeli-Turkey relations.

The concern in Israel is that Erdogan has not really changed. They recall the man who in 2009 walked off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos to not to have to share it with Shimon Peres or likened Israeli operations in Gaza to Nazi atrocities. What has changed, some officials claim, is simply a geopolitical understanding that Turkey needs Israel to boost Ankara's value in Europe and to, as a result, lift the local and failing Turkish economy.

Three options for the Israeli prime minister

AT THE moment, there are three options that are on the table for Netanyahu to rule between. The first is the long-touted EastMed pipeline that would run for about 1,900 km. and connect gas fields in Israeli, Greek and Cypriot economic waters and transport it to mainland Europe. Former Likud minister Yuval Steinitz was the main proponent of this plan and for years it seemed viable, helping Jerusalem forge closer ties with Nicosia and Athens.

The problem is that for all the talks and meetings that have gone into this idea it has not moved forward, mainly because of the price tag for such...

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