Ankara's new foreign policy will reshape the balances in the Middle East
Since Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım took office, it has been clear that Turkey will change track in foreign policy and display differences in its attitude toward certain countries over the coming period. Indeed, these signs of change have come before. Efforts to reach an agreement with Israel have been expressed in an increasingly apparent framework over the past four months. When Yıldırım became prime minister, I described the situation as a "transition from romanticism to realism" and I was not the only person saying so.
Now, Turkey is taking fast and efficient steps within this framework. It is a fact that Turkey was having a hard time recently, especially after the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. As it was excluded from the Syria equitation, Turkey was worried about the possibility that Iran would gain strength and fill the gap. Furthermore, Ankara was offended by the lack of support provided by NATO and the U.S. and was demoralized as it was left alone in its fight against both the PKK and DAESH. The agreement with Israel and rapprochement with Russia was enough to eliminate this bad atmosphere in a moment. The opening of a new chapter in the ongoing negotiations with the EU further improved the situation, as was clearly seen in the Western media. So, what does the Turkish-Israeli agreement signify?The crisis with Israel goes back to the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010 when bilateral relations were suspended, the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv was recalled and relations went downhill as Israel did not take the steps Turkey desired.
This situation hampered years-long military agreements, and most importantly, it halted the sharing of intelligence. Israel stopped providing technical and electronic intelligence about the PKK and joint naval exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean for Turkey. Following this, Israel initiated joint exercises with Greek Cyprus and Greece - dealing a blow to Turkey's presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Now, Turkey's agreement with Israel means overcoming all these difficulties. Israel took a bigger knock than Turkey after the breakdown of relations. For instance, Turkey stopped providing intelligence about Iran. As a country that was already isolated in the region, Israel became even more alienated and pressured. Therefore, the agreement is a win-win situation for both parties. Moreover, Turkey convinced Israel to break the blockade on Gaza and pay compensation for the victims of the Mavi Marmara raid.
We have reached a point where Hamas thanks Turkey for its achievements. For both countries, it is crucial to reestablish dialogue to counter the DAESH threat and new balances in Syria considering the new geopolitical equitation in the Eastern Mediterranean and developments in northern Syria. The refreshed relations with Israel cannot be considered independently from the resolution of the crisis with Russia. Turkey has entered a process that will create a domino effect and is on the way to removing the blockage. It will also enter a process where it will have closer relations with the West - which will begin changing the negative perspective of Turkey. Basic changes in Turkey's policy on Egypt and Syria would not be surprising. Indeed, this means taking up a position in accordance with new balances in the region and rejecting the tight corner into which some want to confine Turkey.