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THIS ARTICLE IS A CRITICAL ANALYSIS of the recent Turkish-Israeli relations. The core aim of this study is to claim the existence of limits within the Turkish-Israeli Alliance, following a 'societal-Constructivist' approach to understand these limits. Using this approach, I claim the "dependence of foreign policy behavior on the norms existing in society." [1] I have two reasons for following a Constructivist approach in studying Turkish-Israeli relations. First, the traditional-approaches are no longer providing a coherent explanation for understanding post-Cold War era transformations. We need new methods and approaches that take identity, norms, culture, civilization, and so on, much more into the consideration of international politics. Second, the issue that I will deal with during the course of the essay bears a high level of connection to society-based values and norms. A pure traditional approach that would deal only with security concerns can hardly explain the limits of the Turkish-Israeli Alliance . Any study of Turkish-Israel relations must refer to the social perceptions, including religion-oriented values, in both countries.

Turkish-Israeli cooperation should also be analyzed within the context of new activism in Turkish foreign policy. [2] Turkish foreign policy in general after the end of the Cold War has become much more active and involved in regional-developments. [3] Several developments account for this change. [4] First, Turkey has understood that it must produce its own policies in order to contest with the other countries. Second, the new wave of liberalization and market economy during the administration of Turgut Ozal and the gap between the internal understanding of world politics and the nature of external economic oriented world politics has decreased. Ozal himself was a devoted economic functionalist. The traditional security-based Turkish foreign policy was challenged by his policies, which were instead much more economic-oriented. Third and presumably the most important reason behind the new activism has been regional developments. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Turkey has befriended several newl y independent countries with which it shares important common traits. However, Turkey has several rivals, such as Iran, Russia and China, also vying for the same region. In addition, some important regional developments in the Middle East forced Turkey to develop a more active and individual foreign policy. Especially after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Turkey's new activism in foreign policy reached its peak. This new activism may even be traced back to the late 70s. As an early sign of this trend, after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Turkey refused to participate in the sanctioning of Iran by the US. [5] Within the same context, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, suggested and led by Turkey, is another example of Turkey's new activist foreign policy.

In this regard, the late 1990s witnessed the zenith of Turkish-Israeli relations. This relationship may be considered "the most controversial-aspect of Turkish foreign policy in the post-Cold War era." [6] However, how can we characterize the Turkish-Israeli relationship? Is it an alliance, a strategic cooperation, or something altogether different? Cognizant of the fact that some writers defend the emerging relations model between Turkey and Israel should be described differently, I prefer the word "alliance". This is open to criticism; however, my main reason for using this term is due to the intentions and expectations of the Turkish side. As a matter of fact many experts also use the word alliance. For example Suha Bolukbasi used the term "alliance" in his article in Journal of Palestine Studies. [7] I take the definition of Bercovitch and Walt that qualifies "virtually any formal or informal military political agreement among states as an alliance." [8] However, to Bengio and Ozcan this relationship is n ot an alliance, but an alignment. [9] According to Alan Makovsky, "Turkish-Israeli ties should be described as a 'strategic relationship', not as an alliance." [10] Meliha Benli Altunisik, in a related article in Middle Eastern Studies Journal, insistently used "rapprochement." [11] No matter what it is called, Turkey's expectations and intentions from early on have been to establish a long-lasting relationship with Israel that would serve both nations' domestic and foreign needs.


Theoretically speaking, an alliance may face several-limits. These can come to the forefront from several directions: domestic and international or strategic and natural. Within this context, an alliance may also face limits due to the leverage of a counter alliance or an opposing state. A second limit may be the changing of the political environment. Regarding domestic limits, the domestic political set that created the alliance may also change. This list can be extended. However, what is important to the durability of an alliance is how it copes with such potential limits and changes. There is a strong relationship between the limits and the identity of any alliance. There is no alliance that is totally free from any kind of limit. These limits usually determine the identity of an alliance. For example, it is hardly logical to imagine an alliance between Iran and Israel that is against Egypt. Neither does the idea of an alliance between Turkey and Russia against the US seem very reasonable. What is more, if an alliance is created against the many existing potential-limits coming from domestic politics of the member or members, the social-legitimacy of the same alliance will be under endless attack. I claim that the recent Turkish-Israeli Alliance created during the last three years has failed to read well the societal-perceptions and values in both societies. This failure, therefore, has produced several-limits for the alliance. Before dealing with some of them, it is necessary to review briefly theoretical discussions on alliance forming among states. According to Stephen M. Walt, "alliances are most commonly viewed as a response to threats, yet there is sharp disagreement as to what that response will be." [12] The Turkish-Israeli alliance as well, from the very beginning, has assigned some states and groups as common threats, such as Iran, Syria and Islamic fundamentalists in the region who demand the revision of the secular regimes in the region. Thus, the ongoing tensions with Iraq, Syria and Iran "will be a major factor in preserving and even intensifying Turco-Israeli ties." [13] However, as the cited definition underlines, Turkey and Israel have not been productive enough in formulating the needed responses against those threats. Another important topic is the essence of the alliance in terms of flocking the two sides.

What forms an alliance among states? To Walt, ideology deserves attention. In short, "the more similar two or more states are, the more likely they are to ally." [14] Adapting this definition to the Turkish-Israeli alliance, what are the similarities of the two countries? Turkey and Israel, as they have usually been labeled, are secular states and I posit that from the very beginning secularism has been the essence of the alliance. Even the perceived threats to the two nations were mainly formulated according to this essence, secularism, of their cooperation. By doing so, the Turkish establishment in particular has seen the alliance as a way of defending its own political principles. In this process, whether a real threat exists or not, the perceptions of the statesmen are much more important. Thus, "the apparent importance of ideology can be exaggerated by the perceptions of statesmen and the policies that they adopt as a result. If statesmen believe that ideology determines international alignments, they w ill view similar states as potential friends and dissimilar ones as potential enemies." [15] It is obvious that the same exaggeration can be mentioned for the Turkish establishment's decisions during the 28 February Process pseudomilitary regime. The most important policy was to protect the secular mode of the state system. There was a big campaign in Turkey to protect the secular state from several domestic and external threats. During this campaign both domestic and external enemies (and friends as well) were re-defined. [16] The Turkish National Security Council replaced the so-called Islamist threat with the former Kurdish threat within this period.

How did Israel become an ally in that period? Why did the Turkish generals and the bureaucrats prefer Israel? Such questions arise from the analysis of how Turkey's state system was manipulated by another state. Stephen M. Walt states that manipulation may take several forms. [17] First, the division of public officials' loyalties may cause a foreign policy choice in favor of one country. In Turkey, the basic reason for rapprochement with Israel was the role of the central military and civil bureaucracy, which defined the cooperation with Israel as a policy to protect the secular system in the country. However, the division in Turkey was among the bureaucracy and the civil government. Second, lobbying institutions may play important roles in the manipulation process. Again in Turkey's case the Jewish lobbies have played an enormous role. It was the several Jewish lobbies and think tanks that the Turkish deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff -- the acting leader of the 28 February Period -- visited regula rly. For example, in his speech at JINSA, Cevik Bir blamed Iran for assisting terrorism against Turkey. Quickly after the end of the Erbakan-led government the same lobbies raised their voices in favor of the successor government. In the related statement of the Washington Institute explaining why the United States should support the new Mesut Yilmaz led government, it says "the former government, the Islamist Refah Party, attempted to lead Turkey away from a society framed by the constitutionally mandated principles of democracy and secularism. The former government forged ties with rogue states and the former prime minister personally engaged in activities expressly prohibited by Turkish law." [18] Considering the above mentioned factors, it is obvious that the preference of Israel was by no means a sole domestic decision.


Considering the picture drawn so far, the first limit of the Turkish-Israeli alliance was the shadow of the military on the alliance. As mentioned, the zenith of the Turkish-Israeli relations coincided with the so-called 28 February process, which was obviously a pseudo civil era in terms of civil governance. The Turkish military was the driving force behind events that opened the way to the end of the Welfare Party-led coalition. What was the logic behind the Turkish Army's orientation towards Israel? Most importantly, during the zenith of the Turkish-Israeli cooperation, Turkey had a government whose traditional discourse was anti-Israeli. Necmettin Erbakan, the Prime Minister of the pro-Islamic government, stated continuously that Turkey would annul agreements with Israel, especially concerning security issues. Thus, preference towards Israel by the dominant military circles depended on several clear reasons. First, as Daniel Pipes expressed, "it was not particularly surprising that when Erbakan and his Re fah (Welfare) Party came to office in July 1996, the Turkish military chose to make Israel one of the most central issues in its broad agreement with the fundamentalists. It insisted not only on maintaining, but even increasing, ties to Israel." Also "the Turkish military, not the elected government, has insisted on the plethora of agreements with Israel," [19] Citing another expert on the issue,

"Turkey's ties with Israel factored into this conflict [tension between the government and secular groups, especially the military] since they were used by the military as an example to show the Welfare Party its limitations in power." [20] Unfortunately, whether it wanted to or not, Israel became used as a symbol of the ongoing debate in domestic Turkish politics. In the eyes of ordinary Turkish citizens the alliance with Israel was a purely military, rather than civil choice, which was used by the military against the pro-Islamic Welfare Party. The Turkish Army's Chief of Staff visited Israel in February 1997, the first such trip by a senior army officer. Quickly after a plethora of agreements came out; the Turkish-Israeli agreements included "weaponry upgrade, hardware purchase, joint production, training, intelligence sharing, trade, transportation, water, etc." [21] According to the agreements, Israeli aircraft could even use the Turkish airspace for training and intelligence gathering. The Welfare Party -led government's role was very limited in that process.

Considering the 1997-1999 period of bilateral relations, it is possible to name this alliance the Turkish Army-Israeli Alliance rather than the Turkish Israeli Alliance. In other words, as the issue of Israel gained a symbolic meaning during the 28 February Process, Turkish society has had important doubts about this alliance. Large sectors of society deciphered the discourse of the secular establishment on the issue of Israel not in terms of foreign policy, but in terms of their domestic struggle against the so-called Islamic threat. Thus, the role of the army in relations with Israel has damaged the social legitimacy of the nature of bilateral relations. In the words of Lutfullah Karaman, a Turkish expert on Palestine, "the rapprochement with Israel is the preference of the official Turkey." [22]


For the Turkish side, Israel was an alternative that might produce a number of gains for Turkey. In other words, the Turkish approach to the alliance was both totalistic and idealistic. The Turkish side understood and explained the Israeli alternative as a new international opportunity, which would cover almost every aspect of Turkish foreign policy. However, the Israeli side was not opportunist like the Turkish side. In Anat Lewin's article about the mutual imagery used by both sides in the media, the Turkish side especially appears very emotional regarding forthcoming gains:

... such coverage transmits the implied message that Turkey has much to gain from befriending this state. The message becomes more pronounced and explicit when Israel's extensive network of contacts -- its lobbies on Capitol Hill, its relations with Europe and the powerful connections of the 'global Jewish network' -- are evoked, generally without regard for the dubious nature of such statements. [23]

In sharp contrast to the Turkish approach, the Israeli approach, in the words of Lewin, "often seems like a cost-benefits analysis." [24] In fact, the Turkish establishment explained the cooperation with Israel as if it were a general remedy for the structural problems of Turkish foreign policy. When officials were asked about the reaction of the Arab states the answer was clear: "Turkey has every right to shape her independent foreign policy and none of the signed agreements were against a third country." [25] Although no Arab country has ever attempted to dictate Turkish foreign policy, expectations of such were in fact a reason for the overemphasis of security in foreign policy. Lesser writes, "It is important to note that Turkey's security policy elites consistently place internal challenges, including Islamism and Kurdish separatism, at the top of their agenda. In the Turkish context the discourse over these issues in the security debate interacts with their perception of the external security environme nt, particularly in relation to the Middle East." [26]

This overemphasis also created an illusion in evaluating the leverages of Israel. Unquestionably, the Turkish elite claimed and believed that Israel would favor Turkey in the international arena. This totalistic view of the alliance is now being questioned.

The role of Israeli lobbies in the US is a case in point, [27] particularly since the issue of the Armenian massacre was raised in the US Congress, forced Turkish society to question the role of those lobbies. To some, "although their activities included some initiatives that overlap with Turkish interests, these initiatives are mainly the policies of American right-wing conservatives, and they are not put forward by the lobbies themselves." Yet, "it is doubtful whether Jewish lobbies in Washington, whose support is particularly important to military circles, would use their influence to protect Turkish interests." [28] It should be noted that the Turkish public is very pragmatic on political issues and is prone to questioning political developments. Parallel to this pragmatism, the Turkish public nowadays questions the role of the Jewish lobbies in Washington. Various well-known experts and commentators in Turkey now claim that the Jewish lobby supported the Armenian side rather than Turkey. [29] As the Tur kish establishment claimed, during the heyday of their relations it was obvious that Israel had the leverage; however, the question was would Israel use it for Turkey as the Turkish establishment expected earlier?

Since Turkey approached Israel from a wide idealist lens some important foreign policy differences with Israel were ignored. With regard to Syria, Iran and Iraq, Turkey has very different perceptions. Of all these, its view of Northern Iraq is the most important. The partition of Iraq is an extremely important question for Turkey. Turkey strongly rejects such a partition, since it may lead to an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. In addition, Turkey is also very sensitive about the process that is ongoing in Northern Iraq. Israel and Turkey do not share the same views about the future of Iraq. Remembering the 39 missiles that targeted the Jewish state during the Gulf War, the territorial integrity of Iraq produces a different set of policies in Israel than in Turkey. The unity of Iraq is not a big problem for Israel. In a worst-case scenario, a division of Iraq may create anger from the Arab countries because of the alleged role that would be attributed to Israel. Such a division may also weaken Ira n. Thus, in the words of Altunisik,

Ankara was apprehensive after the developments in Iraq that the US and Israel were supportive of Kurdish nationalism, especially in Iraq. From the perspective of Turkey, even if they were not actively supporting the Kurdish nationalists, the main players, especially the US and the regional actors like Israel and Saudi Arabia, were content with the status quo. [30]

No matter how Turkey and Israel perceive each other today, one should keep in mind first the fact that the disintegration of Iraq may also weaken Turkey in the long run. Second, Israel may have different thoughts on the issue of the Kurdish people's future. The historical background of the Northern Iraqi Kurds and Israel can be traced back to the 1950s. In all probability a Kurdish state in the region, backed by the USA and Israel, may be in favor of Israel. Following this line of logic, it can be said that Turkey and Iran will not welcome an independent Kurdish state in the region. Neither will Syria welcome such a state. Whether under the rubric of autonomy or independence, a Kurdish political entity will be very close to Israel, and thus it may face negative reaction from Iran, Syria, and Turkey. [31]

The second reason is the idea that a disintegrated Iraq does not seem attractive regarding the intra-regional balance of power. At that point, what Israel, targeted by the missiles of Saddam during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, thinks about the idea of the disintegration of Iraq bears importance. How will an Israel that has always been perceived as a threat by a powerful Iraq approach the idea of a disintegrated and weakened Iraq? In order for Israel to welcome the idea of a disintegrated Iraq, it should be content regarding the two main aspects: First of all, the future state, no matter what kind of a state it will be, should not perceive Israel as a clear threat, in other words, the new state should be able to see Israel as different from the traditional Middle Eastern Muslim States' perception of threat. In this context, the potential new state should provide Israel with additional leverage in the region, especially against the Arab states. The second point is that, the disintegration should not bear an y positive results for Iran and Syria from an Israeli point of view. If disintegration will in any way cause a rapprochement between Iraqi Shiites and Iran, Israel will not appreciate this. According to Umit Ozdag--the president of an Ankara based pro-state think tank--one of the leading figures of those lobbying for a Kurdish state in Washington since 1992 is Ariel Sharon, an Israeli politician. [32] Moreover, according to Meliha Altuntisik, another Turkish expert on the Middle East, first of all, Israelis indifferent to the political integrity of Iraq. In her words: "Ankara was apprehensive after the developments in Iraq that the US and Israel were supportive of Kurdish nationalism, especially in Iraq." [33] Second, in addition to the disintegration of Iraq, Israel is deeply involved in the issue of Kurdish autonomy. The rcots of the Israeli interest in the region go far back historically to the Kurdish Jews. Beginning with 1950s, Kurdish Jews have been brought to Israel from Northern Iraq. The interestin g aspect of the issue is that it is said that even today, almost 30 senior executives of KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), an important political organization, are Kurdish Jews. As a result, when viewed from the theoretical perspective, a disintegrated Iraq will provide benefits to Israel. First of all, Iraq, a powerful Arab state, will weaken and the post-disintegration crisis will continuously impose restrictions on Turkey and Iran. [34]


The Arab League, meeting on 16 September 1997, condemned the Turkish-Israeli cooperation for "expos[ing] Arab national interests to real danger and bring[ing] the region back to the policy of axes and alliances." The Organization of the Islamic Conference in December 1997, meeting in Tehran, denounced Turkey for its growing ties with Israel. One by one each of the regional countries criticized Turkey. Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and even Palestine accused Turkey of being part of a new US-sponsored regional security project, which would put the US and Israel as the basic actors of the Middle East. According to Al-Ba'ath, the official newspaper of the Syrian ruling party, Turkish-Israeli cooperation was an "escalation of Turkey's anti-Arab policies." Also stated was the idea that "Turkey has no right to imperil the security and stability of the region in order to appease world Zionism." [35] However, various experts have claimed, "the 'aggressive' nature of the Arab world related to the alignment [of Turkey and I srael] was more in the realm of rhetoric than of politics." [36] Beyond the issue of harming the Arab states' interests, the intention of both Turkey and Israel was to contain Iran, Syria and Iraq. In the end, considering the US support for this emerging alliance, the two powers sought to establish a new regional balance of power.

There are two problems, or limits, for Turkey in this line of thought. First, this process would by no means assign Turkey as the new main actor of the regional balance of power. Second, remembering Turkish complaints of Iraq, Iran and Syria supporting PKK terrorism, Turkey has, instead of looking for a duel directly with those countries, preferred Israel to solve its problems with these nations. [37] Why? In traditional Turkish foreign policy understanding various domestic sensitivities may shape the course of policies in general. For example, no matter what Iran does in terms of exporting ideology, the existence of an Islamic regime in Tehran is a kind of ontological reason for Turkey to limit its interaction with Iran. The opposite proposition is valid for Israel. However, logically speaking, it is very difficult to expect that cooperation with Israel may create a potential that can solve Turkey's regional bilateral problems completely. At the highest level, it may contain them; nevertheless, this is simp ly a delay, not a solution that can transform Turkish bilateral problems with the regional countries to the level of continuity. In addition, if Turkey's basic approach to the Turkish-Israeli alliance is to contain Iran, Syria and etc., it should be acknowledged that the success of such a policy depends on the stagnancy of those countries political conditions. However, there are early signs of changes and evolution in both Iran and Syria. After the election of Khatami as the new president of Iran, a rationalization process that is not totally independent of the revolutionary spirit has come to the forefront. Also in Syria, Bashar al-Asad, the successor of his father, Hafez al-Asad, has taken office and one may therefore expect new approaches in Syrian foreign policy. [38] The visit to Syria by the current Turkish President Ahmet Nejdet Sezer during the funeral of Hafez al-Asad was a turning point in many ways. Turkey must consider these limited changes in her neighboring countries. Since these limited shifts are creating new momentum in the region, new positive steps by neighboring countries will contribute to the same process, as positive input to those closed systems. The total isolation of Iran, for example, can only contribute to the failure of the moderates and help the radicals. In an age of moderation in the Middle East, the idea of containing Syria and Iran does not seem logical. According to Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar, the Turkish-Israeli axis has undermined many principles of Turkish foreign policy in the same way. As Candar expressed in a speech at the Washington Institute:

First it [the Turkish-Israeli Alliance] has forced Turkey to forfeit its goal of playing a strategic role in the Middle East. The late President Turgut Ozal believed Ankara should remain equidistant from the three major regional power centers: Israel, Egypt [representing the Arabs], and Iran. But the military relationship between Turkey and Israel has made this impossible.... Israeli-Turkish military relations have hurt Turkey's relations with Iran. [39]


It has been claimed that Turkey has shown preference to Israel due to the EU's disappointing conclusions about Turkey in the December 1997 Luxembourg Summit of the European Union. According to the same thesis, as expressed by Barry Rubin, "the rejection of Turkey" in this period by the EU "is not just another event in a long series but rather a turning point, the last straw, in a long historical process." Rubin additionally writes, "It is hard to believe that any future Turkish government will expect success or will really put as much priority, prestige, and so many assets in an effort to gain into Europe in the way that has happened in the past." [40] This rejection of the EU by Turkey then, as Mark Heller claimed, "is a signal of the military's predominant role in Turkish politics, and it is a way of saying to Europe that 'you are not our only option'." [41] Peterson sees making an alliance with Israel as strategic for Turkey, since "rebuffed by the European Union ... it is looking for alliances with other non EU members." [42]

I, however, feel that all such conclusions and commentaries are exaggerated and miss the point. First of all they all miss a very important point: the relationship between Turkey and the Europeans has a long historical background. The Ottomans were acknowledged as a member of the European state system in 1856. [43] The idea of Europe is an inseparable part of the Turkish identity, even if it sometimes reflects negative extensions. Second, even though Turkey was in a manner rebuffed in the December 1997 Luxembourg Summit of European Union, this rejection, along with some reactionary steps, did not create a major shift in Turkish foreign policy. On the contrary, on a year-by-year basis, the idea of becoming a full member of the EU has reached a nation-wide consensus. As it has been just mentioned above recent poll has showed that 68.7 percent of the Turkish society support the membership of Turkey to the EU. [44] In sharp contrast to the early expectations of several experts, the 1997 Luxembourg Summit create d a new understanding in which a "more sustainable, and more mutually fruitful relationship began to develop". [45]


Another social limit is shaped by Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people. Despite the negative images of the Arab created in the early decades of the 20th century as a part of the nation-building process in Turkey, the Palestinians have always been regarded in Turkey as innocent and suffering Muslims. Turkish society has a traditional sensitivity which stems from the historical legacy of the Ottoman Era, for the ongoing events in several formerly Ottoman regions like the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus. Similarly, the civil extension of Turkish foreign policy has usually held strong sympathy for the problems of the Palestinians. For example, after the recent tension and conflict in the region, the Turkish public's feelings towards the Palestinians again have reached their peak. Candar, in his column in Sabah newspaper, stated, "Turkey cannot stand as the number one military ally of an aggressive military machine that is the target of the anger of the regional nations." [46] Also, Turkey, o n 20 October 2000, voted in favor of a recent resolution in the United Nations, which condemns Israel because of its use of extreme violence against civilians. Turkish President Ahmet Nejdet Sezer recently commented on the issue:

The Islamic world was deeply upset by the violent deeds against our Palestinian brothers after Friday's prayer on October the 28th in Jerusalem, which Islam deems to be among the most sacred lands, following certain irresponsible provocation. Resorting to violence, no matter for what purpose, and using weapons in sacred lands is totally unacceptable. Clashes spread rapidly after the upsetting event, and very unfortunately, use of weapons by Israeli soldiers caused several deaths. I do sympathize with those who lost their lives after these terrible occurrences. It is our common wish that a fair agreement be arrived at as soon as possible so that such occurrences never repeat, commonsense presides in the region, our Palestinian brothers enjoy their rights -- as accepted by the international community -- including the establishment of their own state. [47]

A recent public survey shows that 39.2 percent of the respondents are very much interested in what is happening in Palestine. The percentage of the people who have some interest in what is happening in Palestine is 31.4. The same survey includes a very interesting question: What should Turkey do if the conflict in Palestine gives way to a war in the Middle East in general? The responses are also very interesting: 15 percent of the interviewees believe Turkey should side with the Palestinians, 38.5 percent of the same group believes Turkey should back Palestine without taking part in the war. The total percentage of people who said Turkey should side with Israel or Turkey should back Israel in one way without taking part in the war is 4%. [48]

It was not surprising that after such developments the Israeli side started to reflect its unhappiness. For example Tom Neumann, the president of JINSA, promptly criticized Turkey after its vote against Israel at the UN. [49]

When it comes to general concepts, such as peace and harmonious cohabitation, the Turkish public generally supports the idea of peace between the Jewish people and the Arabs. However, considering some 'hard' facts regarding the independence of Palestine, and the status of Jerusalem, one cannot claim the same thing. After the recent violence in the Middle East between the Palestinians and Israelis, the Turkish public has focused on the idea that Israelis reluctant to pursue peace. This reluctance of Israel originates in part from several 'hard' problems such as the status of Jerusalem. 50] According to Fehmi Koru, the crux of the ongoing conflict is the sovereignty question of the city of Jerusalem. [51] Candar draws similar conclusions. In his words, "the core of the Middle Eastern question is the Palestinian question. And the core of the Palestinian question is the Jerusalem question." [52] Both quotations represent public feeling on this issue very well. The question of Jerusalem represents a final psychol ogical threshold for the Turkish society. [53] It is hardly possible to imagine a foreign policy orientation that would ignore the sensitivity of society on the issue of Jerusalem. Such an attempt, whether by the government or by military circles, would be a fragile step.

The historical background of the Jerusalem question in Turkish foreign policy is also of great importance. Turkey, after the 1967 decision of the Israeli government, which entailed the construction of new settlement areas in East Jerusalem, protested strongly. Historically speaking, it can be claimed that Turkish foreign policy on the issue of Jerusalem has generally retained this basic approach. From the early 1960s, Turkey supported the Arab powers in related UN votes. In 1976, Turkey, during the Islamic Conference Summit in Istanbul, supported the foundation of a Jerusalem Fund. When Israel, on 31 July 1980 declared Jerusalem to be the indivisible capital of the Israeli state, Turkey strongly condemned the decision. [54] After the recent Arab Summit in Cairo, Hosni Mobarek's advisor, Nebil Osman, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, stated that "Palestine and Jerusalem are the questions of not only the Arabs but also of all Muslims and specially of the Turks." [55] If societal values hav e a place in foreign policy, it should be noted that the Turkish people would strongly reject full Israeli dominance over the city of Jerusalem. Pro-Islamic groups in Turkey and a large portion of Turkish society perceive Jerusalem as an inseparable part of Islamic civilization. [56] Within this context, the Palestinian and the Jerusalem question bear 'Islamic essence'. A statement of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) reflects well this essence of the question: "The Palestinian cause is not about land and soil, but it is about faith and belief". [57]


It is inevitable that any alliance will face several kinds of limits, and also oscillate between those limits. Societal limits, in sharp contrast with strategic limits, cannot be easily changed or overcome. In general, societal limits are related to identity-based themes such as religion, social values, traditions, freedom and so on. The post-Cold War era has led to domestic and societal facts playing a much more effective role in the political arena. For example, since the Cold War was the age of high politics, strategic limits were very effective during that era. However, in the post-Cold War era societal factors have become very influential. Counter perceptions are now very important.

In summary, this paper claims not that the existence of natural limits is a clear reason for the nonfunctioning of any alliance, but that in the recent course of Turkish-Israeli relations the societal perceptions have been overlooked or considered unimportant. Since many societal norms and values are transnational, ignorance of them may create a regional unease in the long run. In the creation of an alliance a new set of signs and symbols for other nations is born at the same time. Those signs and symbols are the sole means to evaluate the intentions of the allies for others. Various limits determine the identity of an alliance and even determine the conduct of diplomacy. "The diplomatist has to recognize," writes Martin Wight, "his own objectives and limitations; there are certain things he wants, certain consequences he fears, and certain things he cannot do because his power reaches its limits." [58] Gokhan Bacik is a lecturer in the Department of International Relations, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey .


(1.) Henning Boekle, V. Rittberger, W. Wagner; "Norms and Foreign Policy: Constructivist Foreign Policy Theory", www.uni-tuebingen.d/uni/spi/ab2menu, Center for International Relations/Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Tubingen, 2000.

(2.) Stephanos Constantinides, "Turkey: The Emergence of a New Foreign Policy The Neo-Ottoman Imperial-Model", Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 2, (Winter, 1996), p. 324; Nasuh Uslu, Turk Amerikan Iliskileri, (Istanbul: 21. Yuzyil, 2000), p. 342.

(3.) Nasuh Uslu, Turk Amerikan Iliskileri, (Istanbul: 21. Yuzyil, 2000), p. 342.

(4.) Kemal-Kirisci, "Uluslararasi Sistemde Degismeler ve Turk Dis Politikasinin Icindeki Yeni Yonelimler", in Faruk Sonmezoglu, Turk Dis Politikasinin Analizi, (Istanbul: Der, 1994), pp. 393-408.

(5.) Suha Bolukbasi, "Turkey Copes with Revolutionary Iran", Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, (Fall, 1989), Vol. 13, No. 1&2, pp. 95-99.n

(6.) Meliha Benli Altunisik, "The Turkish-Israeli Rapprochement in the Post-Cold War Era", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2, (April, 2000), p. 172.

(7.) Suha Bolukbasi, "Behind the Turkish-Israeli Alliance: A Turkish View", Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 29, No. 113.

(8.) Cited in Gerard L. Sorokin, "Patrons, Clients and Allies in the Arab-Israeli Conflict", in (ed.) Zeev Maoz, Regional Security in the Middle

East: Past Present and Future, (London: Frank Cass, 1997), p. 48.

(9.) Ofra Bengio and Gencer Ozcan, "Changing Relations: Turkish-Israeli-Arab Triangle", Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, (March-May, 2000), p. 134. See the first footnote.

(10.) See: Alan Makovsky-Cengiz Candar-Efraim Inbar, "Special Policy Forum Report The Turkish-Israeli-Syrian Triangle", Peace Watch (Washington Institute), Number 249, 15 March 2000.

(11.) Altunisik, "The Turkish-Israeli Rapprochement in the Post-Cold War Era", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2, (April, 2000).

(12.) Stephen M. Walt, "Alliance Formation and the Balance of Power", International Security, Vol. 9, No. 4, (Spring, 1985), cited in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven E. Miller, The Perils of Anarchy Contemporary Realism and International-Security, (London: The Mit Press, 1995), p. 209.

(13.) Bolukbasi, "Behind the Turkish-Israeli Alliance...", p. 33.

(14.) Walt, op cit., p. 224.

(15.) Ibid. pp. 231-232.

(16.) Gencer Ozcan-Sule Kut, En Uzun Onyil, Turkiye'de Ulusal-Guvenlik ve Dis Politika Gundeminde Doksanli Yillar, (Istanbul: Boyut, 1999), pp. 22-34.

(17.) Ibid. p. 235.

(18.) For this statement see the related web page of the Washington Institute.

(19.) Daniel Pipes, "A New Axis: The Emerging Turkish-Israeli Entente", National-Interest, Issue. 50, (Winter, 1997-1998), pp. 36-37.

(20.) Altunisik, op cit., p. 183.

(21.) Pipes, op cit., pp. 33-37.

(22.) Lutfulla Karaman, "Israil ile Yakinlasma "Resmi Turkiye"nin Tercihi", Islam, Vol. 14, No. 166, (June, 1997), p. 48.

(23.) Anat Lewin, "Turkey and Israel Reciprocal-and Mutual-Imagery in the Media, 1994-1999", Journal-of International-Affairs, Vol. 54, No. 1, (Fall, 2000), pp. 239-241.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) "Turkiye-Israil Is Konseyi Baskani Ekrem Guvendiren iki ulke arasindaki isbirligini degerlendirdi 'Araplara karsi bir hareket degil", Cumhuriyet, 30 August 1998.

(26.) Ian O. Lesser, "Turkey in a Changing Security Environment", Journal-of International-Affairs, (Fall, 2000), Vol. 54, No. 1, p. 183.

(27.) Mustafa S. Ogan, Turk-Israil IIiskilerinin Dunu Bugunu Yarini, (Istanbul, Harp Akademileri, 1997), p. 115.

(28.) Bulent Aras, "Turkish-Israeli-Iranian Relations in the Nineties: Impact on the Middle East", Middle East Policy, Vol. 7, No. 3, (June, 2000).'0006 aras

(29.) Aydogan Vatandas, "Turkiye-ABD Gerginligi Olaylara Gebe", Zaman, 15 October 2000.

(30.) Altunisik, op cit., p. 179.

(31.) Gokhan Bacik, "Irak' in Gelecegi Uzerine Dilsunceler", Avrasya Dosyasi, Vol. 6, No. 1, (Spring, 2000), pp. 75-77.

(32.) For an important discussion on this issue, see: 'Omit Ozadag, Turkiye ve Kuzey Irak: Bir Gayri Nizami Savasin Anatomisi, (Ankara: Asam, 1999), pp 180-190.

(34.) See: Ibid. pp. 190-196.

(33.) Meliha Benli Altunisik, "The Turkish-Israeli Rapprochement in the Post-Cold War Era", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2, (April, 2000), p. 179.

(35.) Avner Gidron, "Turkey's Treaty", World Press Review, Vol. 43, No. 6, (June, 1996), p. 25.

(36.) Bengio and Ozcan, op cit., p. 135.

(37.) Ergun Balci, "Politikada Sorunlar", Cumhuriyet, 3 November 1998.

(38.) Ramazan Kilinc, "Esad' dan Sonra Suriye' de Degisiminin Imkani", Stratejik Analiz, Vol. 1, No. 3, (July, 2000).

(39.) See: Alan Makovsky-Cengiz Candar- Efraim Inbar, "Special-Policy Forum...

(40.) "Roundtable: Kemal-Kirisci and Bulent Aras, "For Questions on Recent Turkish Politics and Foreign Policy", Meria,, (March, 1998) Vol. 2, No. 1.

(41.) Scot Peterson, "Eager for Closer Israel Ties, Turkey Turns up the Charm", Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 90, Issue 158, 1998, p. 11.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) Ali Karaosmanoglu, "The Evolution of the National-Security Culture and the Military in Turkey", Journal-of International-Affairs, (Fall, 2000), Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 201-203.

(44.) Milliyet, 21 September 2000.

(45.) See: Barry Buzan and Thomas Diez, "The European Union and Turkey", Survival, Vol. 41, No. 1, (Spring, 1999), pp. 41-57.

(46.) Cengiz Candar, "Turkiye'nin Ortadogu Sorumlulugu", Sabah, 10 October 2000.

(47.) Ahmet Nejdet Sezer, "16.ISEDAK Toplantisi'nin acilisinda yaptigi konusma", 0.2000-127, 25 October 2000.

(48.) See: ANAR, "Ekim-2000 Turkiye Gundemi Arastirmasi", Ankara, November 2000.

(49.) Yasemin Congar, "Yahudi lobisi rahatsiz", Milliyet, 29 October 2000.

(50.) Ali Gunvar, "Bati Dunyasinin Orta Dogu Uzerindeki israri ya da Bitmeyen Kargasa", Yedi Iklim, Vol. 10, No. 75-76, (June-July, 1996), P. 9. And also see Saim Yilmaz, "Islam Tarihinde Kudus", Yedi Iklim, Vol. 10, No. 75-76, pp. 32-37.

(51.) Febmi Koru, "Filistin Tradejisi ve Turkiye", Yeni Safak, 11 October 2000.

(52.) Cengiz Candar, "Turkiye'nin Ortadogu Sorumlulugu", Sabah, 10 October 2000.

(53.) Imdat Demir, "Kudus", Yedi Iklim, Vol. 10, No. 75-76, (June-July, 1996), p. 18. And also see: M. Lutfullah Karaman, "Tarihin Carpik Bir Bicimde 'Yazilimi' Kutsal-Topraklar (Filistin ve Kudus) Uzerindeki Ornegi: Israil'in Dogusu ve Gelismesi", Yedi Iklim, Vol. 10, No. 75-76, pp. 48-53.

(54.) Resat Arim "Turkiye ve Kudus Sorunu" (Turkey and the Jerusalem Question), in Meliha Benli Altunisik (ed), Turkiye ve Ortadogu: Tarih, Kimlik, Guvenlik, (Istanbul, Boyut, 1999), p.

(55.) Yeni Safak, "Filistin ve Kudus Turklerin de Davasidir", 23 October 2000.

(56.) For a detailed book which contextualise the question in the same logic: See, Lutfullah Karam an, Uluslarasi Iliskiler Cikmazinda Filistin Sorunu, (Istanbul, Iz, 1991); Bulent Aras, Filistin-Israil Baris, Sureci ve Turkiye (Istanbul: Baglam, 1997).

(57.) Meil Litvak, "The Islamisation of the Palestinian-Israel Conflict: The Case of Hamas", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, (January, 1998), p. 148.

(58.) Martin Wight, International-Theory The Three Traditions, (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1992), p. 193.
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Author:Bacik, Gokhan
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Date:Jun 22, 2001

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