x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Israeli-Turkish ties are still blooming

Even if Israeli tourists deserted Turkish beaches this summer, the complex diplomatic relations between the two countries are still active.

"It is wrong to think that Turkish-Israeli relations have entered a deadlock that is impossible to get out of. Even if Israeli tourists deserted Turkish beaches this summer, the complex diplomatic relations between the two countries are still active," noted Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor. Following the deadly attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Ankara strongly condemned the aggression and recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv. It also prevented Israeli aircraft from flying in its airspace while it cancelled joint military exercises.

But in other areas, relations between the two countries continue without disruption. There is a Turkish military delegation in Tel Aviv in a training programme on how to operate unmanned aircraft purchased from Israel. Commercial transactions were also not affected by seemingly chilled relations. Furthermore, there is no indication of the possibility of freezing or calling off the Israeli-Turkish free trade agreement, although Turks fear the Israelis might cancel a contract worth $140 million to improve the capacity of Turkish intelligence aircraft. Overall, however, commercial ties are stable and less likely to be affected, Israeli officials have been quoted as saying. A similar view was expressed by Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations, who stressed the importance of Turkey and Israel's mutual interests.

An Israeli delegation visited Cairo to inform Egyptian officials about their aspirations for Benjamin Netanyahu's Washington visit, wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat. But the Israelis also explained that the visit to the United States was postponed because of the new Freedom Flotilla bound for Gaza. From past experience, it is ironic to believe that Tel Aviv's latest visit to Washington will be different. At best, it is an attempt by Mr Netanyahu to mitigate the mounting international pressure on Israel to proceed in peace talks with the Palestinians. It could also be a way to buy more time as Europe vows its support for the establishment of a Palestinian independent state with or without negotiations.

The die is cast. Enthusiasm for reaching a final settlement has waned because of the intransigent attitude of the Israeli government, which led to the rise of extremist groups in the Muslim world, and to the weakness of the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, this also caused Turkey to turn to Iran, Hamas and others, while the US appears unable to implement its peace plans and meet its promises in the region. As the US legislative election approaches, President Obama needs to support the Europeans, who are enthusiastic about a proposal for an independent Palestinian state based on the Arab peace plan.

In a comment article for the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad, Aisha al Marri wrote that Gen David Petraeus, the new commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, suggested changing war strategies to the US Senate.

He also renewed his support for the process of transferring security responsibilities to Afghan forces, stressing that any drawdown of troops depends on security conditions on the ground. There are two main approaches for defining future strategies in handling the Afghan issue, said al Marri. Some advocate a political settlement by integrating the Taliban, while ensuring the government stays in line with the West.

This hypothetical government should also work on security. Others consider American and international presence in the country necessary because of its strategic location in Central Asia as a base for combating terrorism. According to this view, international forces should escalate their military action by increasing troops in order to eliminate both Taliban and al Qa'eda militias. President Barack Obama has presented incentives to moderate Taliban members through a special fund to cover their employment in government jobs. But the Taliban objected to renouncing arms or to engage in any negotiation process before the withdrawal of foreign forces. In light of the security situation, the writer suggests opening direct dialogue with the movement as a more feasible alternative.

"Nothing suggests that President Barack Obama would go down in history the way his predecessor George W Bush did. The two are as different as the present circumstances. Mr Obama rather would dream of bringing home the American troops from difficult, if not hard-to-achieve tasks... and also extend a hand to Iran for dialogue, respecting differences and interests," noted the London-based newspaper Al Hayat in its editorial.

But this has not happened. Tehran declined his offer. Many have called it a missed opportunity. Some, however, think this reflects Iran's hostility towards the US, which is a fundamental characteristic of the regime. As such, for Iranians, any real dialogue with the US would likely open doors for winds that could disrupt the "Islamic Republic fortress". It is also difficult to understand whether Tehran wantsv to produce an atomic bomb, and why Iranians have failed so far in convincing the West, including China about their real intentions.

The new sanctions have come as an alternative to a military action and may temporarily absorb the mounting tension. But Iran, thanks to its resources and its special relations with Afghanistan and Iraq, can live in the long run with such punitive measures. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae