AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): As the UAE and some other Arab countries publicized their normalization with the Israeli regime, some non-Arab states also joined in. Turkey is one of them. Over the past few days, Ankara emphasized a need to normalize with Tel Aviv.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been strained since 2008 with the Israeli regime’s invasion of the Gaza Strip and the start of the deadly Gaza war. Once again in 2018, with Trump taking action to recognize Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the Israeli capital, tensions rose, causing Turkey to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

Turkish foreign policy shift

Erdogan’s economic policy of cutting interest rates has sent shockwaves through the economy, making the national currency lira slump against the US dollar. Such a situation, along with Turkish failure to join the European Union, US and European sanctions on Ankara, and the continuation of cold relations between Turkey and US as Biden showed he is not a fan of Presidebt Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pushed the Turkish foreign policy to isolation. In a campaign speech, Biden had said that Erdogan’s Turkey is authoritarian and Washington should help his opponents in elections to remove the Turkish leader from power. Erdogan has been in power since 2002, the year his Justice and Development Party won parliamentary vote.

In recent days, Erdogan in addition to presenting a plan to get out of the current economic situation, called for changes in the foreign policy of the country in relations with other countries, particularly the Israeli regime.

 “Despite the differences between Tel Aviv and Ankara over Palestine, the two sides have economic relations,” Erdogan said during a meeting with Turkish Jews and members of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States.

“Trade and tourism have been developing. These relations are vital to the security and stability of the region and will soon return to normal,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu said in his last press conference at the end of 2021, adding: “Diplomatic relations with Israel have also begun, which, of course, are with preservation of  Turkey’s Palestine principles; consultations have begun with the new Israeli cabinet, and we are conducting this process with a realistic approach.”

Why is Erdogan for normalization?

Political-military aspect: With the beginning of the normalization of Israeli-Arab relations, Tel Aviv sought to increase its influence and presence in the Persian Gulf. In addition to the positive economic effects, Israeli toehold would also make Tel Aviv an alternative to Ankara for the Arab states in the context of Turkey’s passivity in the region. This Israeli plan comes as Turkey has always tried to raise the issue of Palestine in order to paint itself for Muslim public as a reference and leader among other countries in defense of the Palestinian cause. But normalization would harm this agenda. Still, Ankara sees benefits of relations with Tel Aviv outweighing its Palestinian policy and patronage; so it decides to cozy up to the Israeli government. Mended ties with Tel Aviv would help Erdogan use the Israeli lobby in the US for improvement of Washington-Ankara relations.

At the same time, it should be said that the Israeli regime got involved in Karabakh crisis with the support of Azerbaijan, together with Turkey, and provided military support to Baku, something providing the ground for new-stage Turkish-Israeli-Azerbaijani military cooperation.

Economic aspect: Over the past years, the economy has played an important role in Turkish-Israeli relations, and the two have always had trade relations with each other even at the time of critical political relations. Their trade volume in 2018 was more than $6.2 billion and $10 billion in 2019. In 2020, Turkey increased its food and drink exports to the regime.

“Despite the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish political relations, their mutual trade has flourished in recent years,” the Tel Aviv-based Israeli Internal Security Research Center, which is affiliated with Tel Aviv University, said in a study of their trade relations.

According to official data, two-thirds of the bilateral trade has been Turkish share. In 2019, half a million Israeli tourists visited Turkey, a figure similar to the figure recorded before the Israeli attack on Gaza-bound Turkish Marmara aid ship in 2010. During the economic crisis in Turkey, the importance and necessity of relations with the Israeli regime increased for the Turks, and the Israelis, on the other hand, believe that trade relations are an important element in bilateral relations that prevent the severance of relations under critical political conditions.

Struggling to weather the impacts of the American and European sanctions, Ankara seeks to rebuild ties with Tel Aviv as a trade partner and as a lobbying side in the Western policy. The current situation once again persuaded the Turkish decision makers about the priority of relations with Tel Aviv over advocacy of the Palestinian cause. With Erdogan’s green light shown to the Israelis in recent days, their bilateral trade and economic ties are up for broadening.