While Israelis have been celebrating the new potential ties with the United Arab Emirates, the Turkish ruling party is angling to become a much larger challenge to the Jewish state in the coming years.
Ankara’s current regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been increasingly hostile to Israel for the last decade, comparing the country to Nazi Germany and vowing to “liberate” al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Reports now indicate that intelligence and military assessments in Israel see Ankara as a challenge and threat.
A recent article in The Times said Mossad head Yossi Cohen “has been talking secretly with fellow spooks in the Gulf states for years.” While he has discussed the Iran threat, another threat is looming, the article noted.
“There was one encounter about 20 months ago when he let slip another agenda: ‘Iranian power is fragile, but the real threat is from Turkey,’” he reportedly told spymasters from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
Israel views Ankara’s strategic goals as a challenge. In January, Israel’s annual assessment conducted by the IDF noted that Turkey has also become a “challenge” for the first time. This appears to be the growing consensus in military and intelligence circles.
Turkey and Israel were once allies. Israel sold Turkey drones between 2005 and 2010 before relations soured and contracts ended. Turkey’s regime, which is rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, became more supportive of Hamas in Gaza and also enabled the Mavi Marmara flotilla – outfitted by the Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation NGO – to sail for Gaza in May 2010. Diplomatic ties were severed after the Israeli raid on the ship and also the 2009 conflict in Gaza. They were restored in 2015.
Nevertheless, Turkey continues to challenge Israel on a variety of fronts. Ankara has hosted Hamas, and the terrorist organization planned attacks on Israel from Turkey, The Telegraph reported last year. According to a new report, Turkey has granted citizenship to Hamas operatives. In November, Ankara signed a deal with the Tripoli-based government in Libya and has begun sending arms and Syrian mercenaries to Libya.