Dimpool Analysis Team


27 February 2011

Along with other Muslim countries, Turkey has always shared close ties with Israel throughout various pivotal points in history. It was the second Muslim country (Iran was first) to recognize Israel as a nation in 1949 and, especially in the 1990s, relations between the two countries greatly expanded and reached an unprecedented level of closeness.


During the first Justice and Development Party (AKP) era, although the AKP’s Islamist background was present, relations with Israel were friendly. They were based primarily on the matters of economic, agricultural and military partnerships. However, after the second AKP era, relations began to grow tense and the relationship has steadily declined ever since.

The partnership further deteriorated following the undiplomatic “one-minute” outburst of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the infamous Davos Economic Forum. After that, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sat the Turkish ambassador on a lower seat, a move that came as retaliation against Turkish TV shows depicting Israel in a negative light. Finally, the relations came to a head when Israeli forces intercepted the Turkish flotilla ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.

Flickr / World Economic Forum. Turkish PM, Erdogan at Davos


The US and the EU have always supported the AKP, but after the Flotilla incident and subsequent refusal to support a new round of United Nations’ sanctions against Iran, Washington’s perception of the AKP government has begun to change. When it came to power in 2002, the US presented the AKP as a successful regional power that could act as mediator for the Western nations and Middle Eastern countries, but that support has not been reciprocated.

The AKP chose to transform its foreign policy into a domestic policy tool and constantly bashed the US and Israel in order to boost its votes. The events show that the AKP is becoming the problem itself instead of being a peaceful negotiator.

Flickr / usembassylondon. Secretary Clinton with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu

On May 1, 2009, Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed Turkey’s new Foreign Minister and he then became free to implement his views, which were outlined in his book Strategic Depth: Turkey’s International Position. In his book Ahmet Davutoglu laid out Turkey’s foreign policy goals, namely that Turkey’s role in the world should not be limited to Washington and Tel Aviv-centric policies, that instead it should become a regional power in the areas that the Ottoman Empire had once ruled. Consequently Turkey became involved in regional crises more so than it had in the past, a situation encouraged by the US and Israel in the beginning. However, the AKP government has pursued an ideological approach on each individual issue, for example, while defending some of the most notorious offenses that Islamist regimes have committed against Muslims it consistently criticized Israel. At the Chatham House in London, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that, “One day, East Jerusalem will be given to Palestine, and we will all pray in those lands. This is not a fantasy – it is a vision.” This is proof that the main cause of all the disputes between the AKP government and Israel is the political ideology that sees Muslims in perpetual conflict with other faiths, and the flotilla incident was just a flame to the fuse of Turkish-Israeli conflict. For a long time, some dismissed this conflict as merely domestic politics, but from the outset the AKP did not have any intention to align with Israel.

EBarring a few Israeli politicians’ overreactions, such as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman’s “Israel won’t be Turkey’s punching bag” comment and Danny Ayalon’s “low chair” incident, the Israelis do not appear to know what to do with Turkey. Although lacking the support of the region’s powers-that-be, Israel avidly seeks a replacement for Turkey.

Flickr / Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών. Avigdor Lieberman with his Greek counterpart, Dimitris Droutsas

The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Greece to discuss military cooperation, trade, and tourism with his counterpart and Greek Foreign Minister Dmityris Droutsas’ visit to Israel, which included the signing of an aviation agreement between the two countries, show that some see bankrupted Greece as an alternative to Turkey for Israel.


It is almost certain that the AKP will maintain a strong unification stance amongst the religious regions in Turkey, and achieve a landslide third consecutive victory in the upcoming elections. For that reason, Turkey will likely pursue a much more aggressive approach to Israeli relations, especially by collapsing its military and agricultural partnerships.

At this point, Israel must recalculate to show the world that the reason for this dispute is clearly an ideological policy that was supported by Great Britain. 4

*Burhan Gurdogan is an intern lawyer and independent researcher on Turkish politics, currently he is finishing his masters degree in criminal law.

  • 1- Like the Sudanese genocide by Omar al-Bashir / supporting Hamas instead of the secular Palestinian Authority^
  • 2- Many analysts in Turkey accuse Israel of sabotaging Turkey’s military equipments such as Heron planes^
  • 3- Head of Turkey’s Higher Board of Education (YOK), Yusuf Ziya Ozcan implied that Israel and the US can destroy the whole Turkish nation by implanting a genetic mechanism into the tomatoes^
  • 4- This sentence will be explained in a further analysis^

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Among other Muslim countries, Turkey has always shared close ties with Israel through various points in history. It was the second Muslim country after Iran to recognize Israel in 1949 and especially in the 1990s, relations between two countries greatly expanded and reached an unprecedented degree of closeness." />