Experts say wind of change in Israel may break ice between Turkey and Israel
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
ANKARAMar 13, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
Mar 13, 2015 12:00 am
While Israelis are preparing to go to the polls on March 17 to elect the 20th Knesset, which literally means "assembly" in Hebrew, demands from society for change and the desire to terminate Benjamin Netanyahu's six-years in the Prime Ministry office are becoming gradually more audible.
Despite the fact that Netanyahu has said he had no doubts about winning the elections, the results of a poll conducted by Panels Research on Wednesday and Thursday seem to suggest that his prediction is way out in left field. According to the poll, 82 percent of respondents said they want a change in the Israeli government. Participants were also asked if they want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue to head the government, and 48 percent said no, while 41 percent said yes. Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog reacted to the positive poll results by saying he would replace Netanyahu. "Netanyahu failed, and he admits his failures," Herzog told Channel 2.
The same poll results also show that the Zionist Union, by taking a commanding lead, is expected to enter the parliament with 25 seats, while Netanyahu's Likud party is only expected to win 21 seats. Nevertheless, the future is not clear with regard to the election results, as the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), Professor Efraim Inbar, says: "It is not clear yet who the winner in the Israeli elections will be. It is a close election. In the meantime, the Zionist Union is leading slightly, but Likud has a better chance to convince the centrist parties to form a government coalition. About 15 percent of the electorate is still undecided, which makes predictions difficult."
One of the puzzling issues and a matter for debate is whether the elections would affect the relationship between Turkey and Israel and to what extent this impact will be seen.
Considering the demand for change in Israel, a likely win by the Zionist Union is expected to change Turkish-Israeli relations, according to experts on Israeli politics. Indicating that a Zionist Union win in the elections would lead to a change in Israeli foreign policy and peace talks with the Palestinians, Nimrod Goren, who is the founder and chairman of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said: "That will create a more favorable atmosphere for Israel-Turkey reconciliation, probably after the general elections in Turkey and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks. Herzog values Israel's relations with Turkey, having spoken favorably about it in the past and has deemed it important to personally meet guests from Turkey invited to Israel by the Mitvim Institute over the past couple of years."
Goren also thinks that a likely continuation in power of Netanyahu would result in no change. "While Netanyahu was willing to apologize to Turkey on the flotilla incident in 2013, he wasn't ready to approve the draft reconciliation agreement that was prepared in 2014. There is a lack of trust between him and Erdoğan, which is unlikely to change, and Netanyahu is not expected to make a breakthrough on the Palestinian issue, which is an important issue for the Turks," he said.
In the case of a Zionist Union victory in the elections, Ceyhun Çiçekçi, who is an International Relations Researcher & PhD Candidate in Çanakkale 18 Mart University, harbors the same expectations. Pointing out that the Zionist Union shelters a large range of different ideologies with concrete support, Çiçekçi said: "This dimension would definitely affect the relations between Turkey and Israel. Meanwhile, leftist discourse is warmer towards the Palestine question. While ceasing operations, bringing an end to the blockade, etc. in Gaza are the conditions for a reconciliation with Turkey, a possible leftist coalition is more likely than Netanyahu's to repair relations."
Çiçekçi on the other hand, stresses that whoever the foreign minister will be in the case of Netanyahu winning the elections is going to have an impact on Israeli foreign policy: "These possibilities also depend on the new FM of Israel. Under a possible Netanyahu lead, Lieberman is out of possibilities, (the HaBeyit HaYehuda leader) Bennett or (the Kulanu leader) Kahlon may capture the post. For a brief background, Bennett has introduced himself as the leader of religious Zionist movement and also as the representative of settlers in the West Bank."
Almost six million people are registered to vote in the elections, and nearly 70 percent of them are expected to turn out to vote. In the 2013 parliamentary elections, while 5,656,705 Israelis were registered to vote, the turnout was 67.8 percent.