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Israeli-Turkish relations are a rather curious phenomenon in the political space of the Middle East. At first glance, it may seem that the dynamics of their development is determined solely by the role of extra-regional powers, since both states have special relations with the United States. However, the reality is more complicated.

Faced from the very first days of its existence with the vital need to strengthen the position of a new State in the region, Israel's foreign policy strategy was based on two basic ideas. First, in the context of the conflict with the Arabs, Israel needed a key non-regional partner and patron, which from the very beginning was the United States, although France was the main supplier of modern weapons to Israel until almost the end of the 60s. The second component of this course was the so-called peripheral strategy, which provided for the need to develop strategic cooperation with non-Arab Muslim countries.

One of the most fundamental and complex issues that Israeli leaders had to deal with was how Israel should position itself in the Middle East region. In the face of a direct threat to the existence of the state from the armies of Arab countries and their rejection of Israel, and in order to maintain a certain balance of power in the region, Tel Aviv began to actively look for a fulcrum, a counterweight that could be used to its advantage. And such a tool was found. It became a "peripheral" policy. Its components were, first, Israel's support for various non-Arab ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East. This gave Tel Aviv the opportunity to play a complex geopolitical game, the strategic goal of which was to "weaken from within" the Arab regimes hostile to Israel. The second component was the establishment of cooperation with regional non-Arab Muslim States in order to change the balance of power in the region in favor of Israel.

At the same time, Israel is characterized by a much more active role of the military and other structures in the implementation of foreign policy tasks compared to many other states, since they are the natural agents of state interests in the absence of official diplomatic relations. As a rule, the initial establishment of relations with potentially friendly countries occurs precisely through the military departments.

Another important tool is foreign economic activity, first of all, the supply of high technologies, know-how (in particular, in the field of agriculture) and weapons to developing countries.

Turkey, a traditional partner and ally of the United States, fits perfectly into this scheme. Both Israel and Turkey are pro - Western states, in the formation and development of which the army played a significant role. Israeli-Turkish cooperation is a model of effective cooperation that can be applied in the future to develop Israel's relations with other Muslim states.


Israeli-Turkish relations have gone through several stages of development. In the 1950s and 1970s, cooperation between Israel and Turkey was secret, because the Turkish leadership did not want to discredit itself in the eyes of Muslim public opinion, both inside and outside the country.

The 1970s were marked by a deterioration in relations: ties were curtailed at the Turkish initiative due to a sharp rise in the price of oil and Turkey's growing dependence on its supplies from Arab countries. In the 1980s, relations gradually warmed up, and in the 1990s, they grew rapidly and reached a qualitatively new level of official interaction - strategic partnership.

Historically, there has been no significant friction or tension between Turks and Jews. In the 15th century, Turkey became a refuge for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. At the same time, the authorities were quite tolerant of the Jewish population, and its status in the empire was significantly higher than other ethnic minorities. This was probably due to the fact that the Jewish community was never tied to a specific territory of the Ottoman Empire and did not raise the question of independence.1

During World War II, the Republic of Turkey hosted Jewish refugees from Europe. However, in 1947, at the UN General Assembly, Turkey voted against the partition of Palestine. This was dictated, along with general Muslim solidarity, and fears that the State of Israel would automatically become an ally of the USSR and, accordingly, turn into a "hotbed of communism in the Middle East", since Zionism and communism were perceived in Ankara as related and almost identical doctrines. But already in 1949, Turkey softened its official position and became the first Muslim state to recognize Israel and establish relations with it.

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official relations. Since 1952, active cooperation between the special services and the exchange of intelligence information began.

A factor complicating political relations at the first stages was the fact that each of the parties tried to give them a format that was beneficial to it. For Israel, which aspires to legitimize itself in the region, an open nature of interaction was preferable. Turkey, on the other hand, did not want to discredit itself in the eyes of the Arab-Muslim community, and therefore preferred a secret or semi-secret format of contacts. As Israel's first Prime Minister D. Ben-Gurion said, " the Turks ... they treat Israel as a mistress with whom they do not want to enter into a legal marriage. " 2

Israel's main goal in military-political cooperation with Turkey was to overcome the political and diplomatic isolation in the region. For Turkey, Israel was primarily a source of obtaining high-tech weapons that it could not get from other sources.

Tel Aviv and Ankara have been and continue to be cautious of each other due to the presence of sensitive regional issues, on which their interests and positions do not coincide, and often clash.

However, on a number of sensitive issues, the parties are ready to show some flexibility. In particular, we are talking about the issue of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Officially, the Israeli leadership refuses to equate the Armenian tragedy with genocide. In 2001, a diplomatic row even broke out between Israel and Armenia, caused by the statement of Sh. Peres (then Foreign Minister) said that "it is unacceptable to compare Jews with Armenians on the issue of genocide." 3

And finally, the two main problems, the Israeli and Turkish positions, on which to some extent they are a mirror image, are the Kurdish and Palestinian issues.


For a long time, Israel, despite the relevant signals from Turkey, categorically refused to officially condemn Kurdish separatism. This tradition lasted until 1997, when it was broken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who condemned Kurdish extremism and expressed support for the official Turkish position on the Kurdistan Workers ' Party.

Israel began to develop contacts with the Kurds, based on both ideological and pragmatic considerations. Kurds are not Arabs, they belong to the western branch of the Iranian people. Unlike Jews, Kurds are still unable to establish their own state. In addition, with the help of Kurds living in a number of countries in the Middle East, Israeli special services were able to conduct operations and receive intelligence from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

Since 1963, Israel has sent groups of advisers to Iraqi Kurdistan to help Kurdish leader Barzani prepare and carry out various operations. As a rule, these groups included representatives of the special services, army officers and technical consultants. In May 1963, the first Mossad emissary arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan, and in June of the same year, Mossad Director M. Amit discussed with his Iranian counterpart, Chief SAVAK H. Parkavam, the issue of Israeli-Iranian cooperation on interaction with the Kurdish resistance 4. In July 1963, the first shipment of Israeli weapons was delivered to Kurdistan. At the same time, Mossad emissaries in Europe held talks with the Kurdish leaders I. Ahmad and J. Abramovich. Talabani.

In 1968, Barzani made his first visit to Israel, and in July-October 1970, several thousand Jews were evacuated to Israel via Iraqi Kurdistan.

The cooperation was not only military, but also covered humanitarian areas. Thus, in July 1965, courses for training Kurdish teachers and doctors were opened in Israel.5 In September 1966, an Israeli field hospital was deployed in Iraqi Kurdistan, which lasted until 1970.

Until 1975, Iran provided active assistance to the Kurdish resistance, and Israeli assistance to the Kurds was carried out mainly through Iranian territory. But on March 6, 1975, in Algeria, the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Saddam Hussein signed an agreement according to which the border between Iran and Iraq was established along the talveg line* Shatt al-Arab, but in return, Iran pledged to stop all aid to the Kurdish rebels in Iraq.

With the signing of the Iran-Iraq treaty, Israeli-Kurdish relations automatically became more complicated. On March 9, 1975, at a government meeting, Prime Minister Rabin said with regret that " the agreement between Iran and Iraq deprives the Kurds of hope for the future."6. In March 1975, all Israeli military and civilian advisers were evacuated from Kurdistan.

However, Israel's interest in working with the Kurds has not waned and has increased especially on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Israeli press periodically publishes information about the continuation of Israel's military cooperation with the Iraqi Kurds. In December 2005, the newspaper Yediot Ahronot published an article stating that, under an agreement with the Kurdish leadership, private Israeli companies were working in northern Iraq to train Kurdish units in the fight against terrorism. Supplies of military equipment, mudslides were carried out.-

* Talveg (from German) - a line connecting the deepest suits of the bottom.

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agricultural machinery and telecommunications equipment 7.

There is no consensus among Israeli academics, diplomats and political analysts on whether the establishment of an independent Kurdish state would be beneficial for Israel. Some believe that the independence of Kurdistan will have a positive impact on the situation in the region, arguing that if Israeli-Turkish relations deteriorate sharply, then Israel will have an alternative partner in the Middle East.

As you know, in the 20th century, the Kurds often became a bargaining chip for Middle Eastern countries and great powers. Israel, too, has clearly outlined the boundaries within which it is willing to cooperate with the Kurds, while not harming its relations with Turkey. Just as Ankara, while cooperating with Israel, is simultaneously trying to maintain and even strengthen its position in the Islamic world, so Israel, through secret contacts with the Kurds, continues to generally follow the strategic course of cooperation with Turkey. Ankara, in turn, remains solidary with the Palestinians - but it is not a question of ending the partnership with Israel in the military sphere.

In other words, Israeli-Kurdish cooperation has reached a certain level that allows Israel to balance between different centers of power, perform specific pragmatic tasks, while minimizing the risk of complicating relations with Ankara. The question of how long Israel will be able to maneuver as successfully between the Kurds and Turkey remains open. To a large extent, the prospects for these relations depend on the centrifugal processes taking place in Iraq.


The Arab-Israeli conflict was and still is a factor directly affecting Israeli-Turkish relations. The military successes of Israel demonstrated during the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949 impressed the Turkish leadership, while Ankara's position towards Arab countries remained rather cautious at that time.8

Turkey has condemned Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Six-day War, but official Ankara has never used the phrase "aggressor State" against Israel.

In other words, the Turkish leadership traditionally formulates its official position so as not to spoil mutually beneficial relations with Israel, but at the same time "save face" in the Arab-Muslim world. However, Ankara did not always manage to maintain a balance, which periodically led to a deterioration of relations with Israel and a decrease in the level of diplomatic relations.

In 1979, a representative office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was opened in Ankara. In 1980, in protest against Israel's policy in the occupied territories, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and downgraded diplomatic relations to the level of second secretaries. However, already in 1986, a Turkish diplomat with the rank of ambassador was appointed to the post of "second secretary", and full diplomatic relations were restored in 1991.In 1988, Turkey became the first State to have diplomatic relations with Israel and recognize the Palestinian National Authority (PA). However, under Israeli pressure, Turkey refrained from establishing full diplomatic relations with Palestine. It is significant that Turkey, even after the full restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel in December 1991, has almost always consistently voted with Arab countries on UN resolutions concerning the Palestinians.

In general, the Palestinian issue does not hinder Ankara's policy of developing partnership. However, the Turkish leadership cannot completely abstract itself from the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, which was especially pronounced during the Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, when the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Rafiq bin Abdulaziz al-Abadi, was killed. Erdogan called Israel a "terrorist state" and accused the Israeli government led by A. Sharon of violating human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Very harsh reaction caused

page 26

The March 2004 assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh A Yasin and later his successor A. Rantisi.

However, in 2005, the crisis in relations was overcome, as evidenced by the official visit of R. Erdogan to Israel and the Palestinian territories. As a result of this visit, an agreement was reached to establish a direct telephone line between the heads of government of the two states. The joint statement of A. Sharon and R. Erdogan also mentioned the intention of the two countries to make joint efforts in the fight against terrorism.

In recent years, Turkey's position on the Middle East settlement has gravitated towards the position of the EU (which is not surprising in light of Ankara's desire to become a full member). The official position of the Turkish Foreign Ministry is that the parties should stop violence and clearly follow the road map developed by the Middle East Quartet of international mediators; Israel should stop building new settlements, it is also necessary to advance the process of Palestinian institution-building and urgently improve the living conditions of Palestinians.

Since Turkey has established traditional ties with the parties, it is an optimal mediator, and this is also reflected in the practical plan of unfreezing the Syrian track of the Middle East settlement. On May 21, 2008, Syria and Israel officially announced the start of Turkish-mediated proximity talks, and by September 2008, four rounds of such contacts had taken place in Ankara.

Turkey's position on Hamas is also interesting. Following the movement's victory in the parliamentary elections to the PNA on January 25, 2006, a Hamas delegation held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara. On February 16, 2006, Hamas Politburo Chairman H. Mashal, who lives in Damascus, met with Turkish Foreign Minister A. Gul. The Turkish Foreign Ministry hastened to assure that the invitation came from the Justice and Development Party, and not from the country's president or Prime Minister. The Turkish Foreign Minister called on Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and come to the negotiating table.9

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, its foreign policy strategy in general and its policy in the Middle East region in particular have undergone a significant transformation, while maintaining a number of traditional foundations. The key factors of this transformation are reaching a new stage in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict (the conclusion of peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan in 1979 and 1994) and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (the Oslo process and mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO in 1993, the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from All this has led to a conceptual revision of the concept of "periphery" and regional threats to Israel's national security. Arab countries are gradually coming to understand that Israel is an integral part of the region. The growth of Iran's regional power turns the previously friendly "periphery" of the Arab-Muslim world from a potential ally into an enemy, and therefore, in order to ensure its security, Israel is beginning to think about the need to develop relations with Arab countries in the long term.

Playing on the contradictions between Arab and non-Arab states, Israel sought to break through the hostile environment and ease the pressure from the Islamic world.

Strengthening relations with Turkey and developing a model of interaction with Muslim states remains Israel's most important task in the region. Although military-technical cooperation remains a clear priority, the Israeli leadership is clearly aware that it has its own objective limitations and seeks to diversify ties through the implementation of numerous joint projects in the field of high technologies for peaceful purposes, agriculture and investment.

Nachmani A. 1 Israel, Turkey and Greece: Uneasy Relations in the Eastern Mediterranean. London: Erank Cass, 1987, pp. 44-45.

Barkey H. J. 2 Reluctant Neighbour: Turkey's Role in the Middle East. Washington D. C.: US Institute of Peace Press, 1996, р. 148.

Svarants L. 3 Pan-Turkism in the geostrategy of Turkey in the Caucasus, Moscow, 2002, pp. 371-376.

Nachmani Sh. 4 Hakesher Haisraeli-kurdi. Tel Aviv, Miskal - Yedioth Ahronoth Books, 1996, р. 422.

5 Ibidem, p. 423.

6 Ibid., p. 10.

7 Israel Trained Kurds in Iraq - (Yediotakhroiot newspaper).

Nachmani A. 8 Israel, Turkey and Greece.., р. 43 - 44.

9 I Haaretz, 20.02.06.


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