Guide Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

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But too often these religious voices have been excluded from Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic and grassroots efforts. USIP is working to make the peacebuilding process more inclusive and effective by supporting local partners who facilitate dialogue, problem solving, and joint action among Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders. The Institute funds and guides work that encourages faith leader cooperation to bridge divides, mitigate violence, and provide a model for collaboration that protects holy sites and their visitors. USIP works to strengthen the capacity of Israeli and Palestinian youth to build trust across divided communities and promote a culture of peace and nonviolent action within and between their communities.

Through grants and trainings, the Institute provides Israeli and Palestinian youth with the resources and skills to engage in constructive dialogue, develop leadership skills, identify shared challenges, and design and implement joint action projects that prepare the grounds for peace. As Israel appears headed for another election, the U. Type: Podcast. The Palestinian movement split—politically, geographically, militarily and strategically—after the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

Fatah, a secular movement, led the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas, an Islamist movement, ruled in Gaza. Type: Analysis and Commentary. Peace Processes.

Chapter One

March 26 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing ceremony of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that resulted from the Camp David Accords. President Jimmy Carter, the treaty has been a cornerstone of regional security and U. We provide analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace around the world. Standing in front of the building, IHH chairman Bulent Yildirim said the case was not against the Jewish nation, but against Zionists and murderers. He added that, if Jews had lived in Gaza and faced similar persecution by Muslims, they would have tried to break the siege, too.

He also questioned Israel's right to exist on occupied Palestinian territory. While the Turkish foreign ministry said it was not a party to the trial, this process is bound to negatively affect Turkish-Israeli relations for some time to come.

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The Justice and Development Party won the elections of , and , steadily increasing its support. He referred to the "spirit of Sarajevo," emphasizing centuries of coexistence among Jews, Christians and Muslims, and Serbs, Croats and Bosnians — adding that he considered Sarejevo the Jerusalem of the Balkans. There were also cities transformed by numerous civilizations such as Istanbul, 43 referring to its Byzantine and Ottoman past. He also presented Turkey as the protector of underdogs, such as the Palestinians, and noted the example of an African president, without naming him, who had requested Turkey's intercession to be represented at a G meeting.

These ideas emphasize similarities of culture and history, but do not focus exclusively on Islam. There is nostalgia for the Ottoman past, though this worldview does not entail an expansionist foreign policy for Turkey.

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Nationalism is very weak among JDP cadres. A highly sympathetic journalist who has also written his biography characterizes the JDP not as Islamist but "aiming to balance between different worlds.

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  8. The policy labeled neo-Ottomanism by some analysts entails using the instruments of Islam and Turkey's imperial past as "soft-power tools" 46 in the former territory of the empire and beyond. This policy was made possible by the rise of a conservative Anatolian bourgeoisie whose economic liberalism formed the backbone of the JDP, 47 starting with its companies, subsidies to media outlets and promotion of schools. From the s and s, there was a sense among Turks that Turkish and Muslim peoples in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire were discriminated against by the West.

    The "Bosnian genocide" and rejection by the EU were the catalysts for this neo-Ottoman identity, 48 later shared and built upon by the JDP cadres. Consequently, Turkish foreign policy became more sensitive to the demands of the masses, which have always been skeptical about relations with Israel. Of course, it is unclear how much Islam and Islamism as an ideology are shaping Turkish foreign policy, as opposed to national interests.

    There is definitely an emphasis by policy makers on the OIC, and a perception in the Middle East that Turkey is aligning with the Sunnis against the Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere. Only after EU-Turkish relations reached a dead end did he seek closer relations with the Middle East, though there was some emphasis on this in the early days of the JDP government. Initially there was a tactful discourse towards Israel, and members of the government visited Jewish organizations in all their trips to the United States. However, there is an increase in public expressions of anti-Semitism as a consequence of the ongoing crisis and the feeling that Israel is an enemy of Turkey.

    The current debate in Turkey revolves around Islamic, Ottoman, Turkish and regional identities among Turks, Kurds, Albanians, Arabs, Azeris, Armenians, Greeks and Jews based on the common "Ottoman experience they have shared and built together. Turkey's increased engagement with the Islamic world was demonstrated when it gained observer status in the Arab League. He affirmed the two-state formula and called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the independent Palestinian state.

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    Having said this, however, pro-Arab policies are not entirely new, and pro-Palestinian sympathies are not confined to Islamists and conservatives. The secular prime minister Bulent Ecevit called Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Jenin in genocide. On the other hand, Turkey recognized the Jewish state one year after its declaration of independence and has never totally cut off diplomatic relations or questioned Israel's right to exist. While the JDP was in favor of "civilizational dialogue" between Muslim and Western peoples, it did not shy away from criticizing the Islamic world as well.

    He did not present himself as a secular person, but rather as a Muslim who was the prime minister of a secular country. He also noted, "unfortunately Turkey recognized Israel in Even though the first EU-OIC summit meeting was held in February under the tenure of Ismail Cem, the late foreign minister of the Democratic Left Party, the JDP continued these summits, perceiving them to be commensurate with their promotion of dialogue between cultures and civilizations.

    By moving away from the Islamist discourse, they opened up new spaces to play the political game domestically and internationally; they shielded themselves from criticism by secularists — including the bureaucracy and intellectuals — that they were an anti-secular movement by making the domestic reforms needed for EU accession. Furthermore, they made a de facto alliance with the liberal intellectuals in the press and academia, who supported the government's policies of democratization and the softening of Kemalism.

    Consequently, the new Spanish prime minister proposed the "Alliance of Civilizations between the Western and the Arab and Muslim World" to the UN secretary general during a speech at the General Assembly on September 21, , and invited Turkey to become a cosponsor.

    In fact, Kofi Annan was adamant that a Muslim country should take such a role. It should be remembered that Turkey's participation in the OIC before the JDP government was rather restricted, due to the fact that it wanted to preserve a neutral position in the inter-Arab conflict, as well as between Arabs and Israelis. Turkey's activism in its region and beyond might be outside its material and intellectual capabilities.

    While there is sympathy in the Arab world for Turkey as a result of the pro-Arab policies of the JDP and an interest in Turkish soap operas and tourist sites, there is no desire for Turkish leadership of the Arab world. But Turkey's observer status in the Arab League could never have been envisaged under a more secular government, in which European direction and identity were paramount.

    Standing with Israel

    It should, of course, be emphasized that it was the EU that pushed Turkey away. After years of waiting for membership in the EU, Turkey's people and its leaders felt cheated and moved towards the East. Increased trade also played a role. At the domestic level, the JDP successfully devised a conservative populist narrative, promoting itself as the protector of the people against the elite. They mobilized groups within the center right, in addition to former Islamists and idealists one-time sympathizers of the Nationalist Action Party in their antipathy towards the military and its privileges.

    The latest JDP convention featured the articulation of center-right as well as Islamist themes. It is still too early to make a final judgment on this convention, but there were elements of Islamism in its style and rhetoric. One upshot of this shift is that Israel is no longer perceived to be paramount for Turkey's interests. According to a poll conducted on April , , 57 percent of the Turkish populace believed Turkish-Israeli relations were not important; 36 percent considered them significant.

    Of course, both countries need each other — militarily, politically, economically and culturally. Israel is looking for new friends too, replacing the peripheral alliance it had with Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia with a new one involving much weaker states — Romania, Greece, Cyprus, South Sudan and Azerbaijan.

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    Romania has been allowing Israeli pilots to train within its air space. Nonetheless, the strategic value of this new pact is low, and the United States would prefer that Turkey and Israel repair their relations. Another sticking point is that many Turks perceive Israel to be supporting the Kurdish PKK, which they consider a terrorist organization. It is not important. The characterizations by the Turkish prime minister were rather hardline. There has been an unexpected development in Turkey: an interest in Holocaust commemoration and education.

    Turkey has accepted the Stockholm declaration adopted in defining the aims of the organization and has expressed its desire to become a member of the ITF. There will be Holocaust education for students at the high school level in a few years. This was Turkey's third consecutive commemorative event on the Holocaust; they will most likely continue in the future. This interest in the Holocaust might be a tactical tool, an opening to Israel in light of the crisis of the past few years.

    Whatever the motive, the fact that the issue is discussed in a Muslim-majority country is significant. It disproves the allegation that there is Islamist hegemony in the thinking of the JDP. In addition to an increased interest in the Holocaust, no doubt promoted by the government, there have been two other noteworthy developments. Certain commentators found a hidden meaning in his selection by the TRT: an opening to Israel.

    While this seems farfetched, the fact that the government did not oppose his nomination shows that they can be pragmatic. It should be added that this year the singer was nominated by a jury composed of musicians and artists. There is a more important factor, and one that might contribute to the eventual improvement of relations between Turkey and Israel: trade between the two countries increased 29 percent in , reaching its highest level in five years. Furthermore, the arms trade between the two has been significantly reduced.

    Turkey's relations with Israel, since the s and even earlier, were predicated on the assumption that there should be progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. This was applicable during the golden age of the s as well.

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    Therefore, the improvement of Turkish-Israeli relations requires progress on the Palestinian front. More important, in light of what transpired in May , and the intransigence of both parties, there is only a slim chance of resuscitating bilateral relations under the current governments. Cooler heads need to prevail as there are mutual interests at stake, especially with a new Middle East emerging in this globalized and dangerous world.

    I would like to thank Hakan Yavuz for his comments on this article. See this article for an in-depth look into the past and present of the bilateral relations between the two countries. According to a close adviser, Cengiz Candar, this idea was promoted to create a citizenship-based identity divorced from nationalism.