Report: Israeli thaw should include cultural initiatives

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
Published 22.04.2016 01:55
Updated 22.04.2016 13:49

Since Turkey and Israel began talks to normalize diplomatic relations during a meeting in Switzerland in early February, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have emphasized the significance of the meetings, according to the latest report on "Pathways to a Common Future: Youth Perspectives on Turkey – Israel" written by Dr. Burcu Gültekin Punsmann and Dr. Senem Çevik. The report touches upon the significance and necessity of bilateral relations between the two countries while also revealing that "Palestine is still considered a key factor in Turkey-Israel relations."

According to the report, Turkish-Israeli relations, which deteriorated after an Israeli raid on a Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, which was delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, must include "cultural initiatives that support mutual communication and dialogue while complimenting business development" in the normalization process. The report is solely based on "Twenty-six qualitative interviews structured around 10 questions aimed at evaluating the perceptions of Israelis, Israel and of Jews," included interviewees from various views and groups of young adults ranging from 25 to 30 years of age. The interviews, which were conducted from February to March this year, included responses from young adults in Turkey who described themselves as not only supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) but also of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and even the controversial Gülen Movement. The report "offers a diagnosis of the issues between the two countries and provides an overview of how these issues are perceived by Turkey's younger generation; thereby, providing the basis for more effective people-to-people programs and fostering dialogue."

Though Palestine continues to remain at the heart of relations between Turkey and Israel, those who participated in the report indicated that rational policies are more important than emotional reactions. The report states, "Despite the political crises that have shaped the past decade, the democratization and de-securitization of Turkey have inevitably led to a more neutral interpretation of Israel in which the country's youth value the importance of rational policies more than emotional reactions." Along with security cooperation between Turkey and Israel, the report also reveals that the trajectory of relations is on course for a major change leaning towards economic and trade cooperation where, in fact, the interviewees also confirmed that Israel is perceived as a major trade partner and a potential business partner in Turkey.

The report indicates that hate speech and anti-Semitic discourse continues to exist but also praises the initiatives taken by the ruling AK Party government against it. It states that "the recent initiatives taken by the Turkish government, such as making hate speech a crime and making the conservation of a nation's heritage a priority indicate that we are headed in a positive direction in dealing with intolerance and are embracing a more diverse background. The success will depend on political will as well as responsible media coverage."

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