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Israel and Turkey maintened close and economic and military ties between the 1990s and 2011. Israel exported among others tanks, drones, missiles and radars to Turkey. In 2022 Israel and Turkey improved relations with new economic and aviation agreements.

Israel – Turkey Relations

Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the state of Israel as early as March 1949. In 1958 Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion and Turkish prime minister Adnan Menderes met secretly to form the “peripheral pact.” This pact included joint public-relations campaigns towards citizens of both states supporting the relationship between the states, exchange of intelligence information, and support of each other’s militaries.[1]Timeline of Turkish-Israeli Relations, 1949–2006

While condemning the 1967 war, Turkey did not join other Muslim-Majority countries in cutting diplomatic ties with Israel, and only downgraded the relations in 1980. In 1988 Turkey was the first country with diplomatic relations with Israel to also recognize a Palestinian state. This dual relationship continued throw-out the years. In 1992-1993 a series of agreements were signed between the countries including principles for cooperation signed between the defense ministries of Turkey and Israel, a tourism treaty was signed, the Turkish-Israeli Business Council was established, and state officials conducted several official visits with each other. Economic ties continued to grow in the 2000’s with Israel buying water from Turkey.

2009-2011 were a turning point, first due to the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-2009, and later the Israeli attack on the Marmara ship as part of the Gaza flotilla (see below). While most military relations between the countries didn’t not increase back, the general economic ties between the country have grown back quietly. In 2018 the trade between the countries was 1.4 billion USD – the same as it was in 2012.[2]Israeli Export to Turkey 2018

In March 2022 Israel’s president Herzog made a state visit to the Republic of Turkey –  the first Israeli leader to visit Turkey since 2008.[3]Israel’s President Herzog travels to Turkey at Erdoğan’s invitation

In June 2022 Israel and Turkey signed economic and aviation agreements. Israel’s Minister for Foreign Affairs visited Turkey. Also Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry’s economic office in Istanbul, Turkey. According to official data, Turkey was the fourth most important trading partner in the Israeli economy and the fifth most important export destination in 2021.[4]Israel, Turkey further improve relations with economic and aviation agreements

Military Relations

During the first decade of the 2000’s, Turkey was one of Israel’s biggest arms clients. This was always a complicated relationship, with Israel selling arms to, and training, Kurdish forces at the same time.

Throughout the 2000s, Israel militarily supported Kurdish forces, including training in Syria and Iraq.[5]Israelis ‘using Kurds to build power base’ Around the same time, Israel sold 170 M60T tanks, worth $688 million.[6]Sipri Arms Trade database

In 2009, Turkey was Israel’s top arms client[7]Israel’s arms exports: A decade of war and new markets, but that was also a year of shift. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was vocal in his opposition to Operation Cast Lead, going so far as to say that the war would harm military relations between the countries.[8]Turkey confirms it barred Israel from military exercise because of Gaza war

Israel continued exporting weapons to Turkey in 2010, but by 2011 there was another drop in sales, following the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla, which led to the killing of eight Turkish nationals, subsequently suspending Israeli-Turkish diplomatic relations.[9]Israel’s arms exports: A decade of war and new markets

Usage of Israeli Arms

Heron Drones – were sold to Turkey in 2005 and used in a Turkish invasion of Kurdish northern Iraq in 2008.[10]Turkey accuses Israel of selling them defective drones

M60T tanks – were sold by Israel to Turkey in 2002 and used in the 2019 Turkish invasion of Rojava.[11]The hypocrisy of Israel’s alliance with the Kurds

UFED – in use by Turkey’s national police force since 2011.[12]Cellebrite Sold Phone Hacking Tech to Repressive Regimes, Data Suggests

Human Rights Violations

Internally, Turkey is seeing a continued erosion of its rule of law and democracy framework and president Erdoğan. Executive control and political influence over the judiciary in Turkey has led to courts systematically accepting bogus indictments, detaining and convicting individuals and groups despite lack of evidence of criminal activity. Among these are journalists, opposition politicians, activists and human rights defenders.[13]HRW Turkey report This has also included a crackdown on the LGBTQ community[14]Turkey: Students facing three-years in jail for celebrating Pride must be acquitted, and women’s rights[15]While tackling COVID-19 Europe is being stalked by a shadow pandemic: Domestic violence.

Turkish on going aggression towards the Kurds within Turkey and beyond are an ongoing concern. This included the outlawing of political parties, media outlets and mass political arrests. The attack on Rojava in 2019 was the latest manifestation of this.