The Real Causes of the Conflict Between Turkey and Israel

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Iakovos Alhadeff


 I always found the conflict between Turkey and Israel strange, since the two countries had a long tradition of smooth commercial and military cooperation. And yet it seems now that Israel is perceived by Recep Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, as his country’s major enemy.

 What happened? It was only in 2005, as you can see in paragraph “After AKP Ascendancy” of the following Wikipedia link, that Recep Erdogan, during his visit in Israel, informed the nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that the Iranian nuclear program was not only a threat for Israel, but instead a threat for the whole world. Is it possible for someone to say something that will please the Israelis more than that?

 Moreover, as you can read in the same paragraph, during his staying in Israel, Recep Erdogan, paid a visit to the Holocaust Museum, and said that for his party, anti-Semitism was a crime against humanity, and also that the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the relations between Israel and Turkey were perfect. So what changed so dramatically, and today Turkey is with Iran and Qatar the major supporters of the terrorist organization Hamas, which is the organization that launches rockets from Gaza to Israel? As always the explanation is oil and natural gas.


 The first reason is the vast resources of natural gas that exist in the sea area between Cyprus and Israel, which you can see at the following Wikipedia map with green and orange. The vast area above the green country (Cyprus) is Turkey.

Turkey Israel Map

Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, have long disputes about their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), since the latter determines who has what claims on the areas energy riches. And Turkey does not recognize the EEZ of Greece and Cyprus, since doing that would allow the two countries to exploit the region’s natural gas. Israel however, did recognize the Greek and Cypriot EEZ, as you can see at the following Wikipedia link.

Recognizing the Greek EEZ was a major blow in the Turkish-Israeli relations. Moreover, since Turkey was threatening Greece and Cyprus that it would retaliate in case they unilaterally declared their EEZ without Turkey’s approval, Greece, Cyprus and Israel formed a militarily coalition against Turkey. At the following Wikipedia link, at section Military Cooperation, you can read about the Greek-Israeli military cooperation.

 In 2008 the first Greek-Israeli military exercise took place, under the code name Glorious Spartan. The second military exercise between the two countries, with code name Minoas 2010, was scheduled for the 26th of May 2010, and was supposed to last until the 3rd of June. The exercise started on the 26th as scheduled. However on the 31st of May 2010, in order to take revenge from Israel, Erdogan launched the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a flotilla of 6 ships, with the ship Mavi Marmara on the lead. Supposedly the aim of the flotilla was to break the embargo imposed by the Israelis on Gaza’s port.

 However Erdogan was fully aware that there was no chance that the Israelis would allow that. If the Israelis were to do so, Hamas would not have to struggle in order to smuggle Iranian and Qatari rockets and weapons from Egypt to Gaza. They could simply use harbor cranes to unload them from big ships. Therefore there was not even the slightest chance of success, and Erdogan knew that very well. What Erdogan was hoping for, was that the Israelis would respond with violence to the attacks of the terrorists against its soldiers, when the latter would attempt to seize the ships, and use this blood to isolate Israel diplomatically. And that’s exactly what happened. 

Following the Mavi Marmara incident, the Greek government had to withdraw its military forces from the common exercise with the Israelis, ending the exercise on the 31st of May instead of the 3rd of June as scheduled. However this incident only temporarily terminated the Greek Israeli military cooperation. I must mention that Greek journalists were very pro Erdogan and anti Israel during the Mavi Marmara crisis, since most of them work for Greek businessmen who have very close ties with the Arabs, and therefore their interests are not always in tandem with national strategy.  

I mean that at a time when the Greek Army was conducting a military exercise with the Israelis, and the Israelis had recognized the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone, and while Greece had joined a common defense doctrine with Israel against Turkey, Erdogan was attacking Israel to retaliate, and the Greek reporters were supporting Erdogan. You can read about what I say in the following link of the Research Institute of European and American Studies. 


 The second cause of the Turkish Israeli conflict is the natural gas and oil of the Persian Gulf. As I was explaining in great detail in my essay “The Energy War Between U.S.A. and Russia”, there is a great fight in the Middle East between the Shiites regimes of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and the Sunni regimes of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Turkey. The cause of the conflict is that both the Shiites and the Sunnis want to send Persian Gulf energy to Europe and East Asia with their own pipeline networks.

Before the ISIS or ISIL attacks (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or simply Islamic State), Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon were controlled by Shiites(or Shia). These regimes wanted to send energy to Europe, following the route Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon-Europe. You can read about the Iran-Iraq-Syria or the Shiite pipeline at the following Wikipedia link.

 You can see at the following Wikipedia map the route they would follow.

suni bloc

Please not that Syria is controlled by Assad, who is an Alawite. Alawites are a branch of Shiite Islam, as you can read in the first few sentences of the following Wikipedia link. 

On the other hand, Sunni regimes i.e. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Kuwait, and Turkey, want to build their own pipeline network, in order to send their energy to Europe, following the route Qatar-Saudi Arabia-Iraq-Syria-Turkey-Europe. You can read for the Qatar-Turkey pipeline at the following Wikipedia link. 

As you can see at the map, if Iraq and Syria are controlled by the Shiites, the Sunni pipeline is blocked. That’s the cause of the war in the region. Therefore Turkey’s interests are closely linked to Qatar’s interests, since the Qatar-Turkey pipeline will increase dramatically Turkey’s geopolitical significance as an international energy hub, and it will generate lot’s of revenues in hard currencies. But Qatar is one of Israel’s lethal enemies, and the major supporter of the terrorist organization Hamas, which launches rockets to Israel.

Therefore the Sunni pipelines in the Middle East bring Turkey and Qatar much closer, and the energy triangle between Greece-Cyprus and Israel, move Israel and Turkey further apart. As it is most of the time the case, energy is the reason that Israel and Turkey, once a strong alliance, are now standing so far away. 

You can read more about the Pipeline war between the Sunnis and the Shiites at the following link. “The Energy War Between U.S.A. and Russia”.

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