The announcement on Monday that Israel and Turkey have reached a reconciliation agreement is a turning point in relations that had become cooler when an Islamist government first came to office in Ankara in 2002, but which plummeted in 2010 when 10 Turkish citizens were killed after Israeli navy commandos boarded a Turkish flotilla aiming to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
The reconciliation agreement, which was negotiated in fits and starts over years, provides for the funding by Israel of a $20 million compensation fund for the benefit of the families of those killed and injured on the flotilla. It also limits Hamas' presence on Turkish soil to political activity but not military or terrorist-related operations. It also requires the Turkish parliament to pass legislation voiding any Turkish legal proceedings against Israeli forces involved in the Mavi Marmara operation and bars future claims.
A sticking point over the years had been Turkey's demand that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza. On that score, the Turks relented, settling for the access to carry out humanitarian projects in the strip, with supplies from Turkey to be shipped through Israel's port of Ashdod. The agreement will be formally voted on by the Israeli inner security cabinet on Wednesday.
In his analysis of the agreement with Turkey, Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid recounts the many mistakes that he says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made over the years in relations with Turkey. "The biggest criticism that could be leveled at Netanyahu is why he signed now rather than one or two or four years ago. If this deal is strategically important for Israel, why not seek to complete it earlier? The crisis only deepened as the years passed, and reaching an agreement became even harder – both for the Turks and in terms of the political constraints on Israel’s side," Ravid writes.
Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel writes that a notable achievement of the reconciliation agreement with Ankara is that Israel gains an additional channel of mediation and restraint vis-a-vis the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, therefore helping to stave off further conflict in the Strip.
For his part, Arab affairs reporter Jack Khoury says that solutions to Gaza’s water and power problems, combined with infrastructure, housing and medical projects, will help Hamas preserve its rule. That will also indirectly help Israel, which wants to preserve the split between Hamas-run Gaza and the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, since creation of a unified Palestinian government would advance the Palestinian cause in international forums. Israel also prefers Hamas rule to anarchy as long as it remains militarily deterred.
For his part, Haaretz Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el writes: "It’s important to remember that this isn’t a peace agreement between enemy states, but an agreement to rehabilitate relations between two countries and two peoples that enjoyed excellent relations in the past. Even if the agreement is belated, it is very much needed."
In a Haaretz opinion piece, Louis Fishman, a Brooklyn College professor and expert on Turkey, writes: "Putting aside the details of the agreement, the real story however is how Israel was able to transform the international crisis it found itself in following the raid into a diplomatic victory. It’s one that should be fully credited to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu." And he adds: "Essentially, this agreement has the potential to create a new regional reality, advancing relations not based on the glory of the once strong Turkish-Israeli military alliance of the 1990s, but a new paradigm in sync with an understanding of Turkey’s current political situation."
In another opinion piece for Haaretz, Tania Hary, the director of the Israeli non-profit Gisha, which works for freedom of movement for Palestinians, particularly from the Gaza Strip, writes about the situation for civilians in the Gaza Strip and how the agreement with Turkey relates to it. Israel withdrew its troops and civilians settlements from Gaza in 2005, but two years later the Islamist Hamas movement took over the territory. The strip is subject to an Israeli naval blockade, as it was when the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara sought to break the blockade in 2010. The movement of people and goods over land border crossings in and out of Israel and Egypt is also limited. "Israel 'left the Strip,'" Gisha's Hary writes, "yet it still defines the kinds of dreams a girl in Gaza can dream, the kind of economy businesspeople may trade in, whether energy flows into power lines, and if the water is clean."
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