Is Israel More Accepted in the Middle East?

A briefing by Efraim Inbar
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Middle East Forum Board of Governors

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on June 30, 2016.

The Israeli-Turkish renewal of diplomatic relations reflects Jerusalem's growing regional strength. While the agreement stipulates the provision of humanitarian Turkish aid to Gaza via the Ashdod port, the naval blockade of Hamas remains intact despite Ankara's longstanding insistence on its removal.

The agreement also provides for the supply of Israeli gas to Turkey, thus strengthening Ankara as an energy bridge to Europe while reducing its energy dependence on Moscow and Tehran. Jerusalem must nevertheless strive to avoid excessive dependence on Ankara, should it choose to build a pipeline to Turkey via Cyprus.

The courtship of the Jewish state by an Islamist regime with wide-ranging regional ambitions is a direct corollary of the current geopolitical reality, which makes collaboration with Israel a necessity.


Islamist-led Turkey's courtship of Israel reflects Jerusalem's growing regional strength.
Given the Saudi-Turkish failure to topple the Assad regime, Iran's regional surge in the wake of the nuclear deal, Egypt's jihadist predicament in the Sinai Peninsula, and the Obama administration's Middle Eastern retreat, Israel is increasingly seen as the foremost, perhaps only bulwark against Tehran's hegemonic ambitions, and a key ally in the regional anti-jihadist struggle. Hence the reported support of some Arab states for Israel's first-ever election to chairmanship of a permanent UN committee, and hence the $1 billion-plus annual purchases of Israeli goods by the Gulf states.

Israel's greater regional acceptability notwithstanding, one should not hold too high hopes for further gains. Strategic environments by their nature are susceptible to vicissitudes, while deeply ingrained anti-Jewish stereotypes and perceptions among Middle Easterners will take generations to change. Hence Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's current predicament is unlikely to lead to the restoration of the intimate Turkish-Israeli political and military collaboration of the 1990s, just as the Saudi-Israeli collaboration will likely remain covert for quite some time given the desert kingdom's Wahhabi source of legitimacy.