New Israeli government could derail Erdoğan’s reconciliation plans, expert says

Israel’s change of government could make reconciliation with Turkey significantly more challenging, according to Louis Fishman, an expert on relations between the two countries.

Writing for Haaretz, the associate professor Brooklyn College said that new Israeli leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid were likely to be more sincere in their criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan than their predecessor.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly clashed with Erdoğan in public, but his premiership was also marked by growing trade between the two counties.

“We need to remember Netanyahu, similarly to Erdoğan, always balanced populism and pragmatism: very public debacles in parallel to quieter and substantial economic ties between the two states,” Fishman said.

In contrast, Fishman said Bennett and Lapid had taken a much stronger line against Erdoğan, a stance supported by their allies across the political spectrum,

“A coalition packed with far more explicitly belligerent anti- Erdoğan voices may not be nearly as willing to accept the two-track status quo reached under Netanyahu, where Turkey can bash Israel while business continues as usual,” he added.

Fishman said the new Israeli government may now move forward with recognising the mass killing of Armenians during the end of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, a designation strongly rejected by Turkey.

“Bennett – who has used the Armenian genocide recognition as ammunition for his anti- Erdoğan outbursts – and Lapid have expressed their support for recognition in the past,” he said.

The move would be a significant blow to Turkey’s efforts to reset ties with Israel as a first step in a wider regional rapprochement.

“Israel knows that Turkey is keen to re-establish some kind of regional consensus accepting a fairer role and rights in the eastern Mediterranean, and strengthening ties with Egypt,” Fishman said.

For this to happen, Turkey needs to return to valuing a professional diplomatic corps rather than its current “explicitly ideological and intemperate” incarnation, he added.