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Research Questions

  1. How have Israeli-Turkish relations evolved?
  2. What is the status of Israeli-Turkish economic ties since their 2016 normalization?
  3. What are the standing political and security issues between Israel and Turkey?
  4. How might the future of Israeli-Turkish relations develop?
  5. What implications do Israeli-Turkish ties have for U.S. interests in the Middle East?

This report, which draws largely on Israeli and third-party views, examines the relations between Israel and Turkey, concentrating on the state of economic, diplomatic, and security ties after the 2016 reconciliation between the two countries and the possible futures of these ties. Israel and Turkey have almost seven decades of relations, but even after the reconciliation, ties remain strained. While the Israeli and Turkish business communities would like to resume former levels of engagement, and there is interest in cooperation over natural gas, relations in the diplomatic and security spheres are tense because of distrust of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and differences between the countries over the future of Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any change, for better or worse, in Israeli-Palestinian relations, will have implications for the ties between Israel and Turkey, as demonstrated by the May 2018 diplomatic rift over the violent clashes in Gaza and the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Key Findings

Strong Bedrock, Formidable Challenges

  • Israel and Turkey still have strong common interests, especially economically. Natural gas development is still a prospect, and both countries share the objective of stability of Gaza.
  • However, Israeli opinion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and differences between the countries over the future of Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian issue will probably keep relations cold.
  • Israel now has economic and security cooperation alternatives to Turkey, such as Cyprus and Greece. Israeli defense industries have found larger markets than Turkey for their exports including India, South Korea and Japan.
  • Changes in the status of the Israeli-Turkish relationship will probably occur alongside developments on the Israeli-Palestinian front, as demonstrated by the May 2018 diplomatic rift over the violent clashes in Gaza and the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    A History of Ups and Downs in Bilateral Relations

  • Chapter Three

    Normalization Achieved After a Six-Year Process

  • Chapter Four

    Post-Rapprochement Economic Relations

  • Chapter Five

    Diplomatic and Security Relations After Normalization

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusion: Israeli-Turkish Ties Face Formidable Challenges

Research conducted by

This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by the Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP) within RAND International Programs.

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