Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?
Turkish and Israeli flags are displayed before an El Al Israel Airlines cargo flight is loaded, Istanbul, May 24, 2020. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?
  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.


Palestinians welcome Biden decision to reverse Trump policies

Palestinians welcome Biden decision to reverse Trump policies
Updated 28 January 2021

Palestinians welcome Biden decision to reverse Trump policies

Palestinians welcome Biden decision to reverse Trump policies
  • Trump halted US economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, worth $200 million

ATLANTA: Palestinian leaders have welcomed the announcement that US President Joe Biden plans to resume diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and restore US aid for the Palestinian people.

Richard Mills, the acting US ambassador to the UN, told the Un Security Council that the Biden administration intends to fully restore diplomatic relations and reinstate economic and humanitarian aid that was blocked by the Trump administration.

Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said that President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcome the announcement, which emphasized US support for a two-state solution and the importance of a return to negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

He added that the Palestinian leadership is keen for negotiations to resume, based on mutually agreed UN resolutions and the principles of international law that demand an end to Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“We are ready to resume diplomatic negotiations with Israel, with the help of international parties, based on international laws and UN resolutions,” he said. “Any solution, however, that does not take into account Palestinian rights as enshrined by international laws and UN agreements will fail.”

Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that Palestinians realize the Biden administration has signaled a clear break from Trump’s policies, while also being aware of its continuing, unequivocal support for Israel.

“What the Palestinians really want is a clear path toward ending the Israeli occupation and the establishment of their state, not a policy of conflict management in the way it was done for eight years under the administration of former President Barack Obama,” he said.

Trump halted US economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, worth $200 million, and more than $350 million of humanitarian aid provided through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), after Palestinian leaders rejected Trump administration policies they believed denied the Palestinian people their rights and violated previous international agreements.

Mills said the decision by the Biden administration was made to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians and Israelis.

“We do not view these steps as a favor to the Palestinian leadership,” he said. “US assistance benefits millions of ordinary Palestinians and helps to preserve a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis.”

He also stressed the Biden administration’s “steadfast support for Israel” but added that it will support efforts to reach a mutually agreed two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state.

Democratic US Congresswoman Marie Newman, who represents Illinois’s 3rd congressional district in the House of Representatives, said that the decision to restore ties with the Palestinians is a step in the right direction on the path to peace and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis.

“I am extremely hopeful that with the new Biden administration’s intentions and efforts to re-establish UNRWA funding, oppose illegal land annexation, and resume peace talks with the Palestinian leadership, that we will have a clearer path to peace, justice and prosperity in the region for both the Palestinian and Israeli people.”

Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and has refused to abide by numerous UN resolutions calling on it to end the occupation. In 1994 the Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, which stipulated the end of the occupation and the eventual establishment of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Under the Trump administration, the US government in 2017 recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy there from Tel Aviv, in violation of international law that does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the holy city.

* Follow Ali Younes on twitter @ali_reports