In my essay ‘The Real Causes of the Conflict Between Turkey and Israel’, I was describing how this conflict is nothing more than another ‘cold’, for them moment, energy war. I would now like to update the above essay, or say with fewer words what I was saying in this essay.
It is a well known fact that Turkey imports most of its oil and natural gas, and it therefore wishes to become the absolute energy hub that will connect Asia to Europe (red lines) as a remedy to this problem. This will generate billions in terms of transferring fees, and a dramatic increase in Turkey’s geopolitical significance.
This is the reason that Turkey is so aggressive towards Israel and Syria who tried to provide an alternative route of energy to Europe (black lines), Israel by exploiting its natural gas reserves and Syria by agreeing to the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which would bring Iranian natural gas and oil to the Mediterranean Sea, and from there to the European markets. I have written many times about these issues so I will not repeat myself.
The question was why the Israelis could not avoid the conflict with this regional superpower that has an army of 1 million men, since it was fully aware of Turkey’s energy strategy. The answer is quite simple. Israel is surrounded by enemies and it considers of vital importance to have its own energy supplies, for energy security reasons first of all, and for the obvious economic benefits.
However in order to exploit its natural gas reserves, Israel had to make an agreement with Cyprus, on the Exclusive Economic Zones of the two countries i.e. which sea parts belong to one country and which to the other, as you can see on the map above which was taken from the following Foreign Affairs article (only the dark part of the map without the colouring which is mine).
The problem is that Turkey has occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 (red circle), and claims a part of the island’s natural gas reserves. However the occupied territory is not internationally recognized, and therefore any deal between Israel and Turkey would have been illegal. The only option Israel had in order to exploit its natural gas reserves was to ignore its ex-ally, and strike a deal with Cyprus, and that’s exactly what it did. Turkey did not forgive Israel for that.