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A Turkey-Israel Opening

Authors: Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Fellow, and Soli Ozel
April 1, 2013
International Herald Tribune


During his recent visit to Israel, President Barack Obama pulled off a major breakthrough in relations between Israel and Turkey. After forging very close ties during the 1990s, Jerusalem and Ankara have of late gone their separate ways. The estrangement peaked as a result of Israel's 2010 interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli operation resulted in the death of nine activists on board the vessel. The Turkish government was incensed, and an Istanbul court went on to indict four Israeli commanders allegedly responsible for the mission.

On March 22, Obama succeeded in orchestrating a phone call from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Netanyahu apologized for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, a gesture that sets the stage for the repair of relations between the two countries.

This breakthrough, however, is only a tentative beginning; the rupture between Israel and Turkey runs deep. Unless Netanyahu's apology is followed by a robust action plan for rekindling cooperation between the two countries, the current opening will prove nothing more than a fleeting flirtation.

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