The Israeli defense establishment - and especially the Mossad's foreign relations department, which maintains ties with Turkey's national intelligence organization (MIT) - is concerned over the recent appointment of Hakan Fidan as head of that organization, and the implications of that appointment vis-a-vis Turkish relations with Israel and Iran.
Ten days ago, Hakan Fidan, 42, a personal confidant of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, assumed the post of head of MIT, which combines the equivalent functions of Israel's Mossad and Shin Bet security service.
Israeli security sources believe last week's the Mavi Marmara incident reflects an intentional change in relations between Israel and Turkey - orchestrated by Erdogan, along with Fidan and Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu.
There is no concrete information, however, regarding Fidan's involvement in the incident or his ties with IHH, the group that organized the flotilla. In meetings between intelligence officials and the local political leadership, it was noted that Fidan has close ties with Erdogan's Islamist party, and that during the past year he was deputy director of the prime minister's office and played a central role in tightening Turkish ties with Iran, especially on the nuclear issue.
Fidan's appointment at MIT will help strengthen Erdogan's control over certain civilian elements in the Turkish intelligence community, both in terms of determining foreign and defense policy, and also vis-a-vis members of the senior military echelons, who are considered to be a central threat to the Islamist party's power
To date intelligence ties between Israel and Turkey have been good. In April the last head of MIT, Emre Taner, retired after a five-year stint. Erdogan appointed Fidan as acting head then, but he only formally took over late last month. Fidan served in the Turkish military for 15 years, until 2001, but was not an officer.
MIT has extensive authority, in both internal security and foreign intelligence gathering. Its chief answers directly to the prime minister, although the law obliges him also to report to the president, the chief of staff and the country's National Security Council.
Fidan completed a B.A. at the University of Maryland, and he completed his master's and doctorate in Ankara. His dissertation was a comparative analysis of the structure of U.S., British and Turkish intelligence organizations.After his military service, Fidan served in the Turkish embassy in Australia, and last year he represented Ankara in the International Atomic Energy Agency, where he defended Iran's right to carry on with its nuclear program for "peaceful purposes."
With Davutoglu, Fidan formulated last month's uranium transfer deal between Turkey, Brazil and Iran. Apparently, he supports the idea of splitting MIT's authority into an internal and an external intelligence organization, like in Israel, Britain and the United States. It is reported that he intends to concentrate on "institutional" tasks and to work with an independent security service, one of whose main purposes is to deal with the Kurdish PKK organization - partly to deflect criticism of his appointment.
In Israel there is concern Fidan's appointment will have a two-pronged effect: on one hand, that exchange of intelligence between the two countries will be harmed, and on the other, that Israel will have to limit the transfer of information to Turkey, out of a concern that it may be passed on to enemy organizations or states.