Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy believes that Israel and Turkey have strong mutual interests that may lead them to rebuild ties despite recent antagonism against Israel on the part of the Turkish Prime Minister. Halevy addressed a conference in the European Parliament on Thursday.
"The two countries have common geopolitical interests... There is an effort that has to be made on both sides, also on the Israeli side, to do whatever is possible to preserve these relations which have served both countries over a long period of time,” he said.
Among the shared interests are the fact that both Turkey and Israel are democracies, and Turkey's role as mediator between Israel and Arab countries like Syria, Halevy said. Israel has also supplied weapons to Turkey.
However, Halevy noted, Turkey has undergone changes recently, including the election of an Islamic party to power. The method that brought about the change in Turkey's policy has been a democratic one, reflecting “the Islamization of Turkey,” he said.
Halevy linked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Gaza-bound flotilla on which passengers attacked Israeli commandos recently as the latter attempted to board the ship. The soldiers fired back, and nine people were killed.
Testimony collected after the incident suggests that Erdogan, who backed the flotilla and allowed an anti Israel rally as a send-off from Turkish shores, was aware that a significant group of the people aboard belonged to the extremist IHH organization. However, Halevy said, “I do not think [Erdogan] was aware of the more sinister aspects of the operation.”
Halevy, who was replaced as Mossad chief by the agency's current head, Meir Dagan, also stated that he feels that most people aboard the flotilla, including many of those aboard the ship on which the clash took place, the Mavi Marmara, were genuine non-violent activists.
Joining a blockade running flotilla is, however, contrary to international law, and the activists were in all probability aware of the fact that Israel was within its rights in blockading the Gaza shore to prevent arms smuggling.