Could Israel and Turkey go to war?
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a news conference in Ankara on September 2, 2011. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador to Ankara on September 2 and suspended all military ties with its one-time ally after a UN report condemned excessive force used by Israel on a Gaza aid flotilla. (Getty Images)
September 8th, 2011
08:30 PM ET

Could Israel and Turkey go to war?

Editor's Note: Soner Cagaptay is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the co-author, with Scott Carpenter, ofRegenerating the U.S.-Turkey Partnership.

By Soner Cagaptay - Special to CNN

The Arab Spring and recent dramatic deterioration of Turkish-Israeli ties present Israel with a uniquely threatening security environment.  Since 1949, Israel has always had the comfort of having Turkey, one of the two major Levantine powers, as its friend. This is no longer the case. In fact, conflict seems to be looming between Turkey and Israel.

In the aftermath of the 2010 Flotilla Incident, Ankara attempted to intimidate Israel by saying its warships would escort missions to Gaza. Now Turkey and Israel are at dangerously opposing ends of Levantine politics. Not only is Ankara no longer a trusted friend of Israel, but it has also begun to emerge as the key regional actor opposing Israel.

When Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel in 1949, Israel took comfort in the fact that it had the backing of one of the Middle East's most influential players. The strength of the Turkish military allowed it to become and remain a friend of Israel despite Islamist opposition to it.

Following the Camp David Treaty in 1978, Israel established a cold peace with Egypt, bringing the second major Levantine power closer to its side.  Whereas in the 1960s Nasser’s Egypt represented the center of opposition to Israel in the region, Cairo ceased to pose a threat to Israel in the wake of Camp David. This security environment is all but gone.

For starters, Turkey has become like the old Egypt under Nasser - positioning itself as the regional center of opposition to Israel. Meanwhile, Egypt is becoming like the old Turkey.  The outcome of the forthcoming Egyptian elections is far from certain.  Yet it is very likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge as a power to be reckoned with in the Egyptian polls this fall. Even if the Egyptian military stands for maintaining ties with Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood will push for limiting those ties.  Accordingly, Egyptian-Israeli ties will continue to become more cold and tenuous with each passing day.

For the first time, the two major states of the Eastern Mediterranean are aligning against Israel. This is the most important shift in Levantine politics since Camp David or even since 1949 when Turkey recognized Israel. This new balance is a serious threat for Israel, which must now consider an increasingly hostile Turkey and an ever colder and unfriendly Egypt when it evaluates its security environment.

Yet, the new balance carries risks for Turkey, too.  Ankara’s September 8th announcement that its warships will escort new flotillas to Gaza bears the potential of armed conflict between Turkey and Israel. What if the Israelis decide to stop the next Turkish navy-escorted flotilla as they stopped the Turkish-backed flotilla in 2010?  Will the Turkish navy ships choose to react? As chilling as this scenario sounds, it is not unlikely.  If the two countries fail to slow the escalating situation, they could well find themselves in conflict.

The specter of conflict also hangs over gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Turkey objects to Israel’s desire to drill in its exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea largely because it hopes to block the Greek Cypriots from having the precedent of an exclusive economic zone in which they could drill for gas to the detriment of the Turkish Cypriots.  The latest escalation between Turkey and Israel might just pour oil on the political flames of gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Perhaps Ankara is only bluffing to bring Israel to its knees, and perhaps the Israelis would rather let Turkish navy-escorted flotillas sail to Gaza than risk regional war.  But one thing is clear: The Arab Spring and the Turkish-Israeli Winter are churning up the Mediterranean.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of  Soner Cagaptay.

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy • Israel • Middle East • Security • Turkey

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. jim

    the bible calls turkey gomer and they along with other islam countries will try and invade israel and god will destroy them. the end is near.all he wants you to do is say you are a sinner. his son died for your sins.jesus is standing at your door let him in.he wants to love you. there is not very much time left get a bible and read john it says love 221 times. john3:16

    September 9, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  2. John Bewley

    Catalan don't be amazed. Yes When it suited her Turkey has killed minorIties and has engaged in ethnic cleansing. Because traditionally she has been considered a strategic ally here in the US the coverage of some of Turkey's "accomplishments" is soft. Don't tell me about the patriarch having his seat in Instanbul. The partiarach is under a constant threat and if he weren't too much of a global symbol too be a target he would be long gone. If you won't to see Turksih respect for other cultures you only have to go to the part of Cyprus that is currently occupied by Turkey against UN and security Council resolutions. After having expelled all Greekn Cypriots from that part ofbthe island and populated it heavily with poor settlers from analatolia, Turkey has systematically over the last 30 years eliminated all trace of Greek culture. 80% of the churches (some of unbelievable archeological value) have been looted, converted to stables, bars, etc. Stolen icons have been sold in the black market and there some famous court cases even here in the US where the Republic of Cyprus was able to claim back some of her stolen cultural treasures. Greek names of streets and villages have disappeared in the course of two decades.

    September 10, 2011 at 1:47 am | Reply
    • catalan

      John you really havent visited Turkey did you? or known any Turks? YOu have to understand the fact that there is no wahabism in the country . It is the same sin whether you curse Muhammed or Jesus or Moses since they are all prophets in the religion which has been send by god . Now i am an atheist and i dont beleive in religion. However let me give you a little bit of history lesson . in 1963 Dr. Nihat Ilhan his wife and their three kids were butchered ( yes butchered with knifes ) by the nationalist greeks called the Eoka. The three kids were no older than 8 years old and they were taken to the bathroom put in the bath tube and their throats were cut. The images were than send the Turkish newspapers. This has started the whole operation or invasion . The reason to protect the minority of the Turkish population in the island. If you want to talk about stolen historical artifacts you just go and visit any british american or French museum to see all the stolen artifacts . Sorry but the patriarch is there since 1452 . If the turks wanted to get rid of him they had plenty of time and opportunitty. By the way John are you sure you are not from Greece since your name is very anglosaxon however you really have a issue with Cyprus and Greece against Turkey. As i mentioned before i am Turkish who has been living in cataluña for a long time. And i respect the greek culture i even went there for my honeymoon . The only different thing between the Turks and Greeks are apart from the bloody religion is the way the two country cooks the Musakka.I relly suggest you go and visit Turkey see with your own eyes you will be pleasantly surprised.

      September 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
      • Paulina

        sembra ke le kritike siano state stuorcttive x konamida questi screen sembra k si possa angolare finalmente il tiro!!!!!!!quello k aveva rovinato questo fantastico gioco era proprio quelloarrivavi davanti al portiere e muovendo il nunchuk segnavi1 p troppo facile x ki dopo 1 azione spettacolare ,grazi eai controlli wii ,invece di tirare nel 7 segna il portere cn 1 tiro rasoterraSPERIAMO BENE tsu78 28 Settembre 2008 alle 6:52 #20 puntipi che le critiche in generale,credo abbiano pagato molto i sondaggi che ha fatto konami sui vari siti (ad uno ho anche partecipato),comunque la grafica migliorata,speriamo abbiano registrato anche effetti secondari come gli spalti dello stadio e sopratutto abbiano messo l editor di squadre e giocatori(che importante per la longevit del prodotto),comunque quest anno sar un bella lotta me vado a ved vale rossi v :p orlando9164 28 Settembre 2008 alle 19:33 #30 puntibene: non solo miglioramento del tiro a quanto sembra, ma anche delle gestione difensiva che ora sembra davvero interessante e della grafica che mi pare molot ma molto pi nitida e definita Murak 28 Settembre 2008 alle 21:46 #40 puntisbaglio o la grafica non da ps2? Tails92 28 Settembre 2008 alle 22:37 #50 puntiesattamente, allora non sembra solo a me nettamente migliorata SIETE SICURI KE SN SCREEN X LA VERS WII???????SKERZO X FORTUNA KE NN FANNO PORTING DA FIFA 2007 X PS2 CM EA ADESSO VADO DA QUELLI DELLA KONAMI E LI BACIO LA FRONTE .. metaforicamente parlando ovviamente

        April 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  3. SarahPalin

    I like Turkey for Thanksgiving on May 5th.

    September 10, 2011 at 2:10 am | Reply
    • Sam Cunningham

      That's exactly what Sarah Palin would say about this article 🙂 Why don't you get some education?

      September 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  4. Big Spender

    The Middle Eastern Countries are making a big mistake, if they think they can wipe Israel off the map, God said in his word that who ever curses Israel God will curse them. Israel will never be destroyed, Israel belongs to the Jews, Period. and that means all of Israel not just part of it, In Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39 its called the Gog and Magog War. It talks about the middle East Countries and Russia going against Israel, and God is going to perform a miracle, and destroy Iran. Turkey, Russia, Libya and Syria, It will be so bad, that the whole world will know that God saved Israel

    September 10, 2011 at 3:03 am | Reply
    • Northwoods

      What a bunch of crap! The imaginary being in the sky is sure a blood thirsty one if his plan is destroy Iran, Russia, Turkey, Libya, and Syria. How many millions of men, women, and children does that include? What happened to thou shalt not kill? Is that just for humans and imaginary beings can do as they please?

      September 10, 2011 at 8:27 am | Reply
      • JJArise

        You and I may not understand everything He does or allows. God's ways are higher than ours and His secrets are His secrets. But He is a loving God who wants us (including you) to turn to Him for He is our Creator and the One who gave us His Son Jesus Christ as the Savior and our Lord to come soon. Jesus is the only Way to the Heavenly Father. As far as those who dont accept His Word in the Bible and see their destination. Be at the right hand of Jesus and not the left. It is my hope that even you can be my brother in Christ.

        September 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • JJArise

      It's reassuring to know there is someone who is not blind and who puts this into a Bible-perspective rather than a world-perspective. God's Word is TRUTH. He told us of these things that MUST come to pass. God's will be done. Be assured that He is in control and everything IN THE END will be done for His glory and His name will be glorified. Israel is God's chosen. He who blesses Israel is blessed and he who curses Israel will be accursed. The whole world can come against Israel.....BUT THE LORD GOD WILL PROTECT HIS OWN AND SHOW THE WORLD HE IS THE ALMIGHTY GOD! The good news is that God gave us His Son Jesus Christ as a Way to Him, and salvation and eternal life is offered to those (Jews and Gentiles) who accept Him. Prophecy will be fulfilled. OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS NEAR!

      September 10, 2011 at 11:19 am | Reply
      • Garda

        JJ...i suggest u read old bible and not the one written by paulus, or old/new testament. Holly bible are supposed to free from human interference because it came from Father.

        September 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Garda

      U r right, Israel tribe are special in God eyes, even in islam quran its mention israel many times. But remember this, Jesus gave u superiority to test your faith to hold on Jesus word, and now Israelis has done many damage to the world, how do you think it will ended, put u to heaven...i dont think so. If u think killing other people just for your religion its ok to do, then what is the different between israel and Nazi?

      September 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  5. pauk

    cypriot israeli alliance

    September 10, 2011 at 9:14 am | Reply
  6. Frank Christenson

    Israel is Destroying NATO

    September 10, 2011 at 9:22 am | Reply
  7. mikefarris

    for those who don't stand for Israel they will suffer and perish in time and those are the ones that marry there cousins and there seems to be a lot of those out there

    September 10, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
  8. Jayzusfreek


    September 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • Sam Cunningham


      September 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Reply


    September 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  10. Joseph Mariano

    You know what I find really funny? The same people that wanted the Arab spring are now against the same very people they supported overthrowing their governments for the sake of Israel. Just like in Egypt, the protestors attacked the Israeli embassy, and now, people are calling the protestors rioters, when those same people called the protestors heroes when they overthrew their dictators like Hosni Mubarak. It's like you can't say anything to Israel and it's a taboo and Israel is allowed to get away with crimes.

    Just like this situation, they are now going against Turkey, for the sake of Israel. I just hope more and more nations get tough with Israel, even the United States. Most of the problems, if you look at the bigger picture, are the cause of Israel. Sad to say, but that is the truth. Truth may hurt, but it's only evident more and more.

    September 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Reply
    • Bob

      The truth is that the problems in the Middle East are caused by those who would destroy Israel. Every way in which Israel has been involved came about because she was, or was about to be, attacked.

      September 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  11. Sam Cunningham

    Wow, bunch of ignorant rednecks in here. Where do you people gather your facts? Why the heck do you blur the view? The matter is that Israel killed 9 Turkihs citizens and Turkey sought solution thru diplomacy. All Turks wanted was apology. Israel didn't even do that. Can you imagine how bold and how brat and how spoiled they are? Now, Turkey is saying they won't let this ever happen again. What's wrong with this?

    September 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
    • Garda

      I agreed with u sam about Turk and Israel problem, the turks have right to defend their dignity as the same as Americans defend their dignity after 9/11 with invading other country. and to all please look to the history. in the past Israelis was force to move to middle east from europe because they made a lot of problem and confrontation. By israelis believe that the land of palestinians ar they promise land. This is not about religion at all, its about war for oil and lets not forget this "Jesus died killed by Jewish who think Jesus are called himself as God" its a fact.

      September 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Reply
      • Marianne

        I cannot bieleve you kissed that cute dog and that dirty baby I heard they can carry fleas. Babies, not dogs. Great haircut, by the way.

        April 21, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Bob

      Of course Israel did not apologize because its military defended itself after being attacked by a group deliberately trying to run a military blockade.

      September 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Reply
      • Garda

        Bob, please remember one fact on israel and palestine issue "Israel defending their "land" and that land its use to called "palestine"". No argue about that. To others, please look to history of Israel, do not be missinformed by mass media.

        September 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • YGAL


      September 12, 2011 at 4:20 am | Reply
    • Mike

      A nation must not apologize if it did not do anything wrong. Thow turks killed knew when they entered the blockade they were going to be boarded, they knew when they stabbed Israeli soldiers they ewre going to fire back. No western country would allow TERRORISTS launch missiles at them and do nothing! There is a big double standard when it comes to Israel, may be because the west is afraid of the Arabs? food for thought...

      September 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  12. Joseph Zrnchik

    Israel Destroying NATO

    September 11, 2011 at 9:42 am | Reply
  13. Ismail Iskanderi

    Erdogan is only doing what is natural as a leader. He is taking advantage of the Arab weakness to get Turkey back in control of the Middle East. His provocation with Israel will not destroy Turkey, but only gain him allies. If an engagement occurs watch Turkey reclaim what they can and go on the offensive against Syria in the name of fighting Israel. Erdogan may seem crazy but they are thinking ahead, way ahead. Something is not right here.

    September 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  14. Milano

    Arabism & Islamism = twin fascisms!

    Arabism = racism !
    Against: Persian, Assyrian, Maronite, Copt, Kurd (in Iraq, Syria), Berber, On Caucasians, on "al-akhdam", anti-Jewish (not just on Israelis...), anti-Asians, Anti-Africans (not just in Arabs' genocide in Sudan...)

    Islamism = bigotry!
    Radical ISLAM has been waging a vicious bloody global WAR on non-Muslims or on those "not Muslim enough..." As in:
    Thailand, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, E. Timor, Moluccas islands, Nigeria, UK, US, France, Israel, Germany, Russia, China, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt...

    Anti-Israelism's intolerance is only PART of the above "twin-fascism"! [Note, anti-Jewish Arab-Islamic racism in the area, dates back at least to the 1920s. The real root of "conflict" is at their hate education NOT what Israel "does" or does not].

    September 12, 2011 at 12:32 am | Reply
  15. Majav

    Subtract religion from the debate and deal specifically with socio-economics. Religion is used as an attack point and excuse. If people are fully employed, well educated, happy, and have secure futures, religion is more like a private hobby as well it should be. It is often used as a battle cry, but like Northern Ireland and Ireland, religion becomes irrelevant when prosperity arrives. Now that the economy is hurting, old Irish tensions are flaring again. The best antidote for hatred is prosperity. Shiites are poor compared to Sunnis, Palestinians are poor compared to Israelis, Kurds are poor compared to Turks, etc. This is an economic issue clothed in religious frosting, but it will never get solved until the rich are willing to level out the playing field and share.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  16. Majav

    Someone told me that Israel with seven million people gets more aid from the USA than the State of Hawaii. Is that true?

    September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  17. Mike

    The people who attacked the Israeli embassy didn't chant "long live Palestine", they said "we want to destroy Israel". That is the Arab street, its views. It's very simple, the common arab in Turkey or in Egypt has been brainwashed by the religious leaders to blaim everything bad on Israel. Long live Israel!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • Cataln

      there are no arabs in turkey and not much love lost to arabs

      September 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  18. Dean

    Islam = war = submission = intolerance = hate = slavery = oppression = death

    September 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • Jim Bob

      Exactly, islam is nothing but a hatefull religon. but the same can be said about all relgino in general. Israel and its neighbors need to come to peace, or it may destroy the world, economicly, and in many other ways. I dont think the USA can go on fighting syria, jordan, egypt, turkey, and russia if israel does go to war. Because they will have to engage them all. The path ahead is grim but light i believe lies beyond it.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
      • Kelly

        I cannot bvlieee you kissed that cute dog and that dirty baby I heard they can carry fleas. Babies, not dogs. Great haircut, by the way.

        April 21, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Allocer

      Both of you are out of your minds.

      September 28, 2011 at 9:59 am | Reply
  19. da Bond

    time to watch and see back as Man destroys Man. nothing new if you look at the history books.its all a cycle.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
  20. wavettore

    Since 9/11 it's the War on Terror.
    One "false flag" attack so called by error.
    Blair, Bush, and Israel had a Pact in store.
    Their next surprise is knocking at your door.
    A hidden vile Idea from those who want "more"
    will use you and your Belief for the next World War
    When "chosen people" gain while Humankind loses
    Greed wins not by the swords but by the words of Moses

    A new type of Revolution wins with the ultimate weapon
    Your Mind

    September 14, 2011 at 12:41 am | Reply
  21. PauDMX

    Israels are blamed and hated for defending themselves against mass murder. Can erdogon remember a six day war ? Which was led by egypt. Israel will stand firm according to the book.

    September 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  22. DEMIR

    God gave israel ?? Are you sure ?? Exactly what time did he do that ?? Did it justify to give this land to some people claiming it was their land 4000 years ago.. Well then ,who were living there 8000 years ago ?? May be it was the land of Indians-does it mean it has to be returned to Indians after 10 000 years??

    September 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • SPQR

      They use the Bibel to their convenience. If it hadn't been for WW II, Jews would haver never returned to the "promise land".

      September 29, 2011 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • Erol

      Whether you believe it was God or not who gave Israel is irrelevant. Just like Istanbul is now Turkish and not Constantinople – FULL STOP. Israel is and will be FULL STOP.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  23. T klimchuk

    Turkey has now committed itself to a war with Israel whither they realize it or not If it doesnt it will loose face in the Arab world and will have no creablity left The drums are beating louder now Time for the Jews to bring them down a notch or two and if iran wants to interferr them as well

    September 27, 2011 at 7:12 am | Reply
  24. SPQR

    Even if the entire world tells Israel "Dude chill out a little bit", Israel won't care. Whatever happens from now on with Israel, from what I have seen, heard and read, this time Israel did this to themselves.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply
  25. StarBlessedQueen

    welcome to WWIII

    October 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.