To comment on the current Turkish-Israeli bilateral relations, we need to take into account the dependence of the region's countries on the changing balances in the Middle East
Turkish-Israeli relations were strained when former prime minister, current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized Israel's policies on Gaza, saying "you know very well how to kill children" to Israeli then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Davos in January 2009. The bilateral relations entered a tougher period as Turkey suspended relations when Israel raided the Mavi Marmara, a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, in May 2010. Recently some Israeli news outlets, particularly Haaretz, have published a stream of news reports saying that relations have improved and the two countries have come to terms. However Turkey has announced that there is no such conclusive agreement yet.
Since the Mavi Marmara raid, Turkey has been clearly stipulating three conditions for the mending of ties with Israel. First Turkey requested an apology for the attack - which was already issued by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu who called Erdoğan by phone in March 2013. Second compensation was requested for the victims of the Mavi Marmara assault - a topic on which Turkey has been making initiatives for a long time. Although the Israeli press argues that there is an agreement over the matter, there is not yet a conclusive concord over the stipulated compensation of $20 million. Third, it demanded the removal of the blockade on Gaza. Although the blockade has been eased, talks are still continuing regarding its removal.
Finally while Erdoğan was returning from Saudi Arabia along with a group of journalists, including myself, he said that Gaza is experiencing an energy shortage now and that Turkey needs to deploy a floating power-generating ship near the Gaza shore to boost energy there. Erdoğan also said that Turkey should eliminate the water shortage adding, "Concerning the embargo, they said that they can remove it through Turkey, and goods and construction materials can enter Gaza through Turkey. I told my friends that I cannot say anything without seeing a written document. Another topic that we care about is the end of the infringement of the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is all about [Israel] adopting a fair approach towards the incident; in other words, fulfilling our conditions. Israel needs a country like Turkey in the region. We must also acknowledge that we need Israel. If we can manage to take these steps within the framework of mutual sincerity, this will bring normalization. We need to care about our Palestinian brothers. There is no electricity and water in schools and hospitals there. These problems cannot be resolved through squabbles that persist for weeks or even months. These people experience electricity shortage as they only have an access to it [just] five or six hours a day. Is this acceptable? The same goes for water as well. We are about to finish [the construction] of a hospital there. If these were normal circumstances, the hospital would already be finished. This is why we suggest the continuation of relations so that we can achieve results and take a step toward normalization."
These statements indicate that Turkey has a very clear and rational position, and that it does not and will not compromise on giving assistance to Gaza and Palestine. Furthermore as Erdoğan said, both countries need each other. We need to approach international relations buy considering benefits and losses, instead of adopting an emotional approach. Indeed, Turkey coming to terms with an Israel that accepts its stipulations might relieve all Palestinian people, particularly those in Gaza.
Israel is more willing than Turkey to normalize bilateral relations, as it wants to establish a partnership with Turkey over natural gas. On the other hand, it is a nightmare for Israel that Iran's influence is increasingly growing, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inked a nuclear deal with the U.S. and Iran is siding with Russia in a clearer manner. Indeed, this course of affairs disturbs not only Israel, but also all Arab countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia. Iran controls Iraq (through sectarianism), Syria through President Bashar Assad and Yemen through the Houthis. So Iran has disturbed the balances in the region in favor of the Shiite bloc. Israel is in quest of an alliance against Iran, which is one of the leading powers which poses the biggest threat in the region. Likewise it is no secret that there are attempts to pressure Turkey on Syria via Russia and Iran, after the downing of the Russian Su-24 fighter jet which violated Turkish airspace near the border with Syria. This is why the strategic cooperation council which has been established with Saudi Arabia -- and close relations with Qatar -- matters so much.
The Middle East is heading towards major polarization. In this unstable period, it is for the good of Iran that the current policy of the U.S. bears major mistakes. President Barack Obama's administration opens a large sphere for Russia and Iran by striving to remain outside of the equation. We need to consider the big picture, while addressing Turkish-Israeli relations.