Israel-Turkey Ties Get Strong Military-Intelligence Teeth
The reconciliation agreement signed Tuesday, June 28 by Turkey and Israel has been described as a diplomatic breakthrough for ending the six-year rift between the two former allies over Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, which led the flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the clash with an elite Israeli Navy unit.
However, the agreement, while seeking to bury the feud is oriented primarily on a new era in which military and intelligence cooperation dominates. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have put implementation of the accord squarely in the hands of their military intelligence services.
During his thirteen years in power, Erdogan systematically purged the once powerful military elite. He sacked one general after another and packed the top ranks with a new generation of loyal officers..
But now he has pivoted right round and for the first time in his political career entrusted the Turkish military with a diplomatic role and authority for the conduct of regional policies that were long the exclusive province of the national MIT intelligence agency.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources say that this transformation was heralded by the end of the rule of Erdogan’s longstanding henchmen, Ahmet Davutoglu, whom he fired as prime minister in May, and MIT chief Hakan Fidan. Gone now are the two figures who dominated the corridors of power in Ankara by acting out the president’s pretensions to be the top regional power and arbiter of its conflicts, under Davutoglu’s strange “zero problem with neighbors” principle.
At an end too is Fidan’s attempt to build an alliance with Iran to jointly dominate the Middle East.
Instead, Erdogen has now given his new regional policies in the hands of the heads of the armed forces, confident that he no longer faces the risk of removal by a military army coup.
The deal with Israel is just the first of a series of formal and covert agreements and understandings that Turkey is in the process of concluding with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. They were made possible by Ankara’s willingness to cooperate in the establishment of an anti-Iranian Sunni bloc in the Middle East.
Since all of Ankara’s attempts at diplomacy in recent years have come to a dead end, Erdogan was finally persuaded to go for ties based on the sharing of assessments and intelligence in the framework of this new bloc.
Military attachés at the Turkish and Israeli embassies in Tel Aviv and Ankara, working under their respective military intelligence chiefs, will be responsible for implementing their governments’ cooperation agreement. Bypassing their political and diplomatic establishments including their foreign ministries suits Netanyahu’s book as well as Erdogan’s.
The Israeli prime minister has done this before. Only three of his most trusted insiders are allowed to handle his burgeoning ties with Moscow. They are Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, the IDF’s deputy chief of staff, Maj.Gen. Yair Golan, and the head of IDF military intelligence, Maj.Gen. Hertzi Halevy. Otherwise, the prime minister keeps his contacts with the Kremlin, like other sensitive foreign steps, very close to his vest.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources disclose that Turkey’s next reconciliation accord with Egypt will follow the lines of the deal with Israel, by putting implementation in the hands of their heads of military intelligence.
Our sources report that Turkish military intelligence informed IDF Gen. Halevy this week that Ankara wishes to kick off the new arrangement by getting down to brass tacks on the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish question.
The Turks have three urgent requests to put on the table:
1. Access to Israeli intelligence on the Syrian Kurdish PYD movement and its militia, the PYG.
2. Assurances that Israel will refrain from giving military assistance, such as weapons, to the Syrian Kurds.
3. Netanyahu’s instruction to American Jewish leaders and the Israeli lobby in Washington to impede Kurdish efforts to obtain American diplomatic and military assistance.