Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Can Israel’s New Coalition Fix Relations with Turkey?

by Steven A. Cook
January 29, 2013

Employees from a Turkish-owned company in Israel protest against the recent tensions between the two countries outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv December 28, 2010. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters). Employees from a Turkish-owned company in Israel protest against the recent tensions between the two countries outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv December 28, 2010. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on TheAtlantic.com on Monday, January 28, 2013.

Since Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party’s surprise showing last week in Israel’s elections, there has been an outpouring of commentary about a new dawn in Israeli domestic and foreign policies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud, in conjunction with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party lost a combined eleven seats in the Knesset, will have to form a broader government that includes centrists like Lapid. As a result, a conventional wisdom has developed that this new coalition will lead Israel out of its international isolation. Typically, observers have been asking what the Lapid phenomenon means for the “peace process” — as if that is something that exists. Yet a handful of commentators have also zeroed in on Turkey-Israel ties as ripe for rapprochement under a new, allegedly more conciliatory, Israeli government. It is a nice idea, but so are rainbows and unicorns. The reality is that, despite Lapid’s rise, nothing has or will likely change to convince Israeli and Turkish leaders that mending ties is in their political interests.

To be fair, the Turks themselves have led foreign observers to believe that a change in Turkey-Israel relations was possible. For the better part of the last four years, Turkish officials have indicated that Israel itself was not the problem, but “this Israeli government,” meaning, of course, Netanyahu’s outgoing coalition of right-of-center parties.

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