It is testimony to the severity of the earthquake in Turkey that after two days of turning down foreign assistance and, in particular, desperately needed help from its nearby former friend Israel, Ankara has finally relented. The Jerusalem Post reports that after several rebuffs of Israeli overtures the Turks reached out to the Jewish state via its embassy. Tonight, a plane will carry the first of several loads of equipment to Turkey. But anyone believing this gesture marks a thawing of relations between the two countries is probably mistaken.
The first plane sent to Turkey from Israel was a civilian plane chartered by the Defense Ministry. The most logical explanation for this otherwise puzzling decision not to use a military aircraft is that despite backing down from their refusal to accept Israeli help, the ban imposed on Israeli military aircraft flying in Turkish airspace at the time of the Gaza flotilla confrontation between the two nations may still be in place. The alacrity of the Israeli response to Turkey’s need will, like most good deeds, probably go unrewarded as the Islamist government in Ankara continues to make a pitch for leadership of the Muslim world based on its hostility to its former strategic ally.
Last December, when Israel was dealing with forest fires in the Carmel Forest in the northern region of the country, many hoped the fact that Turkey sent a plane to help put out the flames would help both sides smooth over their dispute. But though Israel was properly grateful for the Turkish gesture, relations have worsened as Ankara has fully embraced the Hamas regime in Gaza. While one would hope Israel’s eagerness to help would soften the hearts of the Turks, given the commitment of the Erdoğan government to a pan-Islamic foreign policy that would return Turkey to the position of preeminence it had during the Ottoman era, seems to preclude a rapprochement.
Had their needs been less severe, it is entirely possible Turkey would have stuck to its refusal to accept Israeli help. But given the reports of terrible damage, homelessness and the inability of the government to get aid where it is needed in a timely fashion, it appears Erdoğan had no choice to but to break down and let the Israelis bring in assistance.