Thu 29 December 2011 15:42 GMT

News.Az interviews Dr. Efrat E. Aviv, Department of Middle Eastern
Studies, BESA Center for Strategic Studies) Fellow, Bar Ilan

How deep is the Turkish-Israeli crisis?

The Turkish-Israeli crisis reached its' peak during the 'Mavi Marmara'
incident of May 2010, when nine Turks were killed trying to break
the Gaza naval blockade. However, today, Israeli-Turkish relations
are not beyond repair. Signs of goodwill between these two countries
still appear, for example: Turkish aide during the fire in the Carmel
in 2010; Israeli assistance during earthquake in Van in 2011; recent
reactivated coordination mechanisms which prevent aerial problems
between Israel and Turkish Air Forces over the Mediterranean Sea;
mutual trade rates have broken record etc. So while our 90's "honeymoon
phase" is definitely over and recapturing some of that magic seems
impossible, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel and hope
for reestablishing good Turkish-Israeli relations.

How real is recognition of "Armenian genocide" by the Knesset?

The question whether Israel should officially recognize the Armenian
genocide has been discussed many times in the past in the Knesset.

However, this is the first time in Israeli history that they have
decided to hold an open debate. Unlike past years, when the discussion
of this topic was held by the prestigious and more authorized Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee, where debates always take place in
close doors, this time, discussion was held by Education, Culture and
Sports Committee. This fact should prevent a significant diplomatic
clash, because the Education Committee holds no real authority or
ability to handle such matters. In addition, the exact term used
to recognize this Armenian atrocity is still unclear. The committee
remains indecisive in their decision to refer to it as a 'massacre",
"holocaust" or "genocide.

Is it (recognition) a sign of there is no hope in Israel for
reconciliation with Turkey?

Despite several MKs' declarations that the discussion has nothing to
do with the current crisis between Turkey and Israel and despite their
call to engage in historical discourse about the Armenian atrocity is
separate from the political dimension, it seems as if the timing was
not sporadically chosen. Recent Turkish aide and support of Hamas is
the number one cause for rage within Israeli society, and what mainly
leads to what Yossi Sarid named in Haaretz: "Turkophobia". Alas,
despite the aforementioned, we must not forget two points: 1.The
Education Committee has no direct affinity to the Armenian issue and
as said, is not authorized to make a decision. 2. The chairman of
the committee is MK Alex Miller, from Israel Beytenu, FM Lieberman's
home party. According to sources quoted in Israeli newspapers, Miller
makes sure his political deeds are aligned with those of Lieberman's.

Israeli MF's cautious approach stance is motivated by the desire to
not burn all bridges (see answer to q 1), thus, Israeli MFA would do
everything in their capability not to risk renewing Turkish ire. If
to sum up, the chances of such recognition are not too high.

Do you believe in normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations if the
Knesset recognize the "genocide"?

It is clear that the discussion will not contribute to ameliorating
the now tense relationship. Turkey has been attempting to resolve the
Armenian issue by calling a joint historian committee and by taking
several diplomatic steps. Unfortunately these exertions seem to come
to a "dead end" in many aspects. The majority of Turkish society is
united with their government when it comes to the Armenian genocide.

Knowing the strong national identity Turks hold, it seems that
making concessions regarding the Armenian issue is unlikely to be
made anytime soon. Due to that, and given the delicate relations
with Turkey, I think that if Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide,
(even if other countries follow France), the ire of the Turks towards
Israel will be too high to ever being repaired. That is to say that
even if the current political situation in the Middle East, including
"Arab Spring" continue to deteriorate, it will not help improving
cooperation between Israel and Turkey.

May the Turkish-Israeli crisis reflect somehow on relations between
Israel and Azerbaijan?

I know the Turks refer to the Azerbaijani people as : "One nation,
two countries" but when it comes to Azerbaijan interests, I dare to
say that Turkey will not intervene in the relations between Israel
and Azerbaijan if it is of the benefit of Azerbaijan. As for Israel,
the latter welcomes any country and I believe it is interested in
strengthening ties and cooperation with Azerbaijan by all means.