As many people know, the Israeli government was supposed to be formed after the elections of April 9, 2019, but Netanyahu himself failed to do so and the Knesset was dissolved again to prepare for further elections, which took place on September 17, 2019.
Even after this second election there were not the political and numerical conditions to create a stable and homogeneous government majority and new elections were held on March 2, 2020.
On April 20, 2020, an agreement was reached between Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu, which led to the current government of national unity, which officially began to work on May 17, 2020.
As already said, based on the agreement with Benny Gantz, the Prime Minister is Netanyahu himself, who will be replaced by the current Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, in November 2021.
Gantz was Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015 and later became Speaker of the Knesset from March 26 to May 17, 2020.
He created his “Israel Resilience” Party in December 2018, based on an alliance with the centre-right group Telem, founded by former Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, and also with Yesh Atid, (literally “There is a Future”), a party founded in 2012 by YairLapid, thus creating the “Blue and White” alliance.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is Alon Schuster, from the “Blue and White” alliance.
Son of a German and an Argentinean, he was born in Sderot, one of the most famous and oldest Kibbutzin Israel. He was later part of the Nahal Brigade and was wounded at war.
The Nahal Brigade, which became autonomous in 1982, during the Lebanon War,is a particular structure in the IDF: it stems from a regular paratrooper battalion, but it is also formed by volunteers of the Zionist political movement Nahal, which represents a tradition combining social voluntarism, kibbutzlife and the Israeli military tradition, of which the kibbutz is an integral part (just think of the history of Palmach, for example).
Schuster was a traditional member of the Labour Party (Ha Avoda), which is a socialist democratic, but above all a Zionist party – a political group born in 1968 from the merger of Mapai (literally “Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel”),Ahdut Ha Avoda, (literally “Labour Unity”), which is Ben Gurion’s old party, and Rafi (literally “Israeli Workers’ List”) founded by Ben Gurion in 1965.
In 1965 personalities such as Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Chaim Herzog and Teddy Kollek followed the Founder of the State of Israel within Rafi.
Kollek, who was mayor of Jerusalem for several years, was a very important figure for the creation of the Israeli State, both publicly and with its covert operations in Europe and above all in Italy.
Schuster joined the centrist “Blue and White” alliance in April 2019 and was elected to the Knesset.
The Immigration Minister (also known as the Minister of Aliyah, (literally “Ascent”), i.e. the right of all Jews to return from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel), who more exactly defines herself as “Minister of Aliyah and Integration”, is Prima Tamano-Shata.
She is a Jewish lawyer, journalist and political activist born in Ethiopia.
At the end of March 2020, she left the Yesh Atid group to join the centrist “Blue and White” alliance.
Prima Tamano-Shata was born near Gondar, in the region of the Ahmara, the tribe that heroically followed the deeds of Amedeo Guillet, whom they called Kummandant Shaitan, namely the “Devil Commander”.
The family of the future Minister arrived in Israel with “Operation Moses”, when the Ethiopian Jews (known as Beta Israel community or Falas has)were covertly evacuated from Sudan by the IDF during a civil war that caused a famine in 1984.
The newly created Minister for Community Empowerment and Advancement”, i.e. the Ministry that deals with municipal and local administrations, is Orly Levy-Abekasis, who is member of the Gesher movement (literally “Bridge”) belonging to a centre-liberal area.
The party was founded by Orly Levy-Abekasis’ father.
The new Minister joined the Knesset in 2009 with the Israel Beitenu movement and again in 2019 she founded the aforementioned Gesher Party, which initially ran together with the Labour Party.
It should be recalled that her father was the Moroccan Foreign Minister, David Levy, who was also a personal friend of the Moroccan King.
Orly did her national service in the Israeli Air Force and later got a law degree at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. She now lives in the Mesilot Kibbutz.
The current Minister of Telecommunications, who is essential in a country like Israel, is Yoaz Hendel.
He belongs to Derekh Eretzthat, based on European standards, can be considered a small centre-right movement. It was founded in March 2020 by Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel himself, after their leaving Telem, one of the components of the “Blue and White” alliance.
A military historian by training, he worked as a journalist and was the Chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (ZTS), established in 2005, whose real goal is to draft a real Constitution for Israel.
The Institute deals much with demography, as also the other modern governments should do.
He was born to a father of Romanian Jewish descent and a mother of Romanian and Polish Jewish descent and grew up in the religious settlement of Elkana.
He served in the Shayetet 13naval commando unit, one of the most important elite forces.
He was discharged after six years of service and remained active for several years in the Israeli security system and Prime Minister’s Office.
He holds the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserves where he serves each year.
Yaachov Litzman is the current Minister of Housing and Construction. He previously served as Minister of Health.
He was born to two Polish survivors of the Holocaust in a German refugee camp. Later his family immigrated to Brooklyn and, at age 17, he immigrated to Israel with his parents.
He is a Haredi and belongs to the “United Torah Judaism”, an alliance of Agudat Israel, which is traditionally linked to the movement of the same name in Upper Silesia, which is now more Hasidic than Haredi, although it has a long history as a non-Zionist movement of observant Jews.
The Minister of Culture and Sports is Hili Tropper, who belongs to the “Blue and White” alliance.
Son of a Rabbi, he began his political career in the Labour Party. He also has long experience in educational and school matters and an effective personal relationship with Benny Gantz.
David “Dudi” Amsalem, from the Likud Party, was appointed as Minister for Cyber and National Digital Matters.
His parents were immigrants from Morocco and he previously held the post of Minister of Telecommunications. During his IDF national service he was a tank commander in the Armoured Corps and later obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration from Bar-Ilan University.
He is Chairman of the Likud Party’s Jerusalem branch.
A”Blue and White” alliance member, Michael Biton, was chosen for the key post of Defence Minister.
He was born to parents who had immigrated from Morocco. He got a BA in Behavioural Studies and Hebrew Literature from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, as well as a MA in organizational leadership from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Already elected as a candidate of Kadima – the old centrist and liberal party established in 2005 by Likud and Labour members who supported the unilateral plan of disengagement on the Arab issue, developed by Ariel Sharon -later Michael Biton formed a new political party, called Ahi Israel. Due to a leadership dispute, however, he quickly decided to leave the party and become member of the “Blue and White” alliance.
The current Minister of Diaspora Affairs is Omer Yankelevitch, born Galitsky.
An attorney and civil rights activist, she is a member of the party formed by Benny Gantz and co-founder of the Just Begun Foundation, which sponsors social initiatives to help integrate peripheral and marginal populations in Israel.
Her father was a native of Lithuania and she received a Haredi education. At age 16 shetaught Hebrew and Judaism in Moscow and Ukraine.
The Economy Ministry, which was merged with the Welfare Ministry in 1970, is currently led by Amir Peretz.
A “historical” Labour member currently serving as leader of the Labour Party, he also served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Environmental Protection, as well heading the Histadrut union federation – born at the time of the British Mandate for Palestine – between 1995 and 2006..
After five years as mayor of Sderot, in 1999 he left the Labour Party to establish his own party, One Nation, also known as Am Ehad (literally, and more precisely, “One People”). In 2004 he merged it back into the Labour Party.
Following the 2006 elections, however, Peretz and his partially new Labour Party joined the Kadima-led coalition, which had been established in 2005 to support Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan for disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Peretz served as Defence Minister in the Kadima-led coalition government.
During his tenure as Defence Minister he greatly supported the 2006 Lebanon War and, above all, approved the Iron Dome defence system. He was later defeated by Ehud Barak in another Labour leadership election and resigned from the Cabinet.
In 2012 he resigned from the Knesset after leaving the Labour Party to join the new party called Hatnua, (literally “the Movement”), belonging to the centrist and liberal-democratic area.
In 2013 he ran with the Greens, who had previously merged with Hatnua, while in 2015 he was elected to the Knesset with a list formed together with the Labour Party, called “the Zionist Union”, which became the second largest parliamentary group at the time.
Hatnua was a party whose demands focused – especially in 2013 – on peace between Israel and the Arabs, social justice, full employment and also full merger between army and citizens, as well as on religious pluralism and secularism.
The current Education Minister is Yoav Galant.
He was former Commander of the Southern Command in the Israel Defence Forces and former Minister of Construction in 2015. In 2018 he joined the Likud Party.
His Polish mother was a Holocaust survivor and his father fought the Nazis, as a partisan of the Jewish brigades, in the forests of Ukraine and Belarus.
.[He served in the 84thGivatiBrigade and he fought the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and other subsequent wars.
The GivatiBrigade was stationed in the Gaza Strip and mainly carried out counter-guerrilla operations until the Sharon Plan. He received a BA in Business and Finance Management from the University of Haifa.
Galiant began his military career in 1977 as a naval commander in the 13th Flotilla. In the 1980s he moved to Alaska and worked as lumberjack. He then returned to the Navy and served as Commander of a ship-based missile launcher. In 1994 he took up the command of the whole 13th Flotilla.
After serving for three years as Commander of the 13th Flotilla he moved up to command the Gaza Division. In 2001 he was appointed as Chief of Staff, while in 2002 he became the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary.
In 2005 he was appointed as Commander of the Southern Command. During his tenure the IDF embarked on Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In his political career Galant initially accepted to run for the Kulanu Movement created in 2014, while in 2018 he joined the Likud Party and was appointed as Minister of Aliyah and Integration. In 2019, however, he resigned from the Knesset.
The current Minister of Environmental Protection is Gila Gamliel, a female member of the Likud Party born in 1974 to a Jewish Yemeni family.
Her mother was from Libya. She studied at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where she was awarded a BA in Middle Eastern History and Philosophy. Later she also graduated in Law.
The Finance Ministry is led by Israel Katz from the Likud Party. Katz. previously held the posts of Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Transport, Minister of Intelligence and Minister of Foreign Affairs and was also member of the Security Cabinet of Israel.
His parents were German Holocaust survivors coming from the German-speaking region of Romania, on the border with Germany and Hungary.
He drafted into the IDF in 1973 and volunteered in the Paratroopers Brigade. After his discharge in 1977 he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He entered the Knesset tin 1998 as a replacement for Ehud Olmert.
In 2003 he was appointed Minister of Agriculture in Ariel Sharon’s government and in January 2004 he announced a plan to increase settlements in the Golan Heights. Along with Netanyahu, Katz was also against Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan. In the same period, he even lobbied with the World Zionist Organisation to provide incentives and subsidies for settlements in the West Bank.
Former Minister of Transport in Netanyahu’s government in 2009, Gabi Ashkenazi is the current Foreign Minister in the government formed by the Likud Party, the “Blue and White” alliance and other groups.
He was Chief of General Staff from 2007 to 2011. He is a Mizrahi Jew -i.e. an Eastern Jew, often of Maghreb origin – born in the Sharon region of central Israel. His father, a Holocaust survivor, had immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria while his mother had immigrated from Syria.
He attended a renowned high school affiliated with the prestigious Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv and later studied at the U.S. Marine Corps University.
He served in the Golani Brigade from 1972 to 1988 and he first saw action during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Later he took part in the Operation Thunderbolt, the Operation Entebbe and in the Operation Litani of 1978.
During the 1982 Lebanon War Ashkenazi served as deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade. He was promoted to Commander of said Brigade in 1987.
A year later he was appointed Head of Intelligence for Israeli Northern Command.
He later worked as the Chief of Israel’s civil administration in the occupied Lebanon and in 1994 he was promoted to Chief of the General Staff’s Operations Directorate. In 1998 he was appointed Head of the Israeli Northern Command, a position that would make him responsible for Israel’s withdrawal from its Security Zone in Southern Lebanon. He criticized the withdrawal, believing that it should have been accompanied by negotiations with Syria.
He was appointed IDF Deputy Chief of Staff in 2002, but he had also been in charge of the construction and maintenance of the fence physically separating Israeli and Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
He advocated building the fence very close to the Green Line, i.e. the 1949 “Armistice border”.
In 2006 Ashkenazi was appointed Director-General of the Defence Ministry and served as Chief of the General Staff from 2007 until 2011.
He joined the current government as member of the “Blue and White” alliance.
Yuli Edelstein, from the Likud Party, is the current Minister of Health.
He is of Ukrainian descent and son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Later both parents converted to Christianity. Currently the Minister declares he is an Orthodox Christian and he is also a “Russian Orthodox priest”.
He arrived in Israel in 1977, but then went back home and was later “sent” to the Siberian penal colonies by the KGB, after being arrested by the Russian Intelligence Service on fabricated charges: coincidentallyhe was charged with home possession of drugs.
He immigrated definitively to Israel in May 1987,moving to the West Bank settlement of AlonShvut.He did his national military service in the Israel Defence Forces, attaining the rank of Corporal.
In 1996 he founded the Yisrael Ba Aliyah Party, together with the famous Soviet dissident Nathaniel Sharansky.
In 1996 he was elected to the Knesset and became Minister of Immigrant Absorption in a Netanyahu’s Likud-led government.
In 2009 he was appointed Minister of Information and Diaspora.
Following the 2013 elections, he became Speaker of the Knesset.
Another Likud member, Ze’ev Elkin, was appointed to the newly-created posts of Minister of High Education and Minister of Water Resources.
He was born to a secular Jewish family living in Ukraine and, as a young man, he joined Bnei Atikva, the largest Zionist religious movement in the world.
He studied mathematics and physics at Kharkiv University from 1987 to 1990. He later became the General Secretary of the Soviet Union branch of Bnei Atikva, the aforementioned association founded during the British Mandate for Palestine.
After immigrating to Israel, he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was elected to the Knesset for Kadimain 2006.
He served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and then became Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.
In 2015 Elkin was also appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Strategic Affairs, a post he had to surrender after only 11 days when Gilad Erdan was appointed Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Elkin asked for Minister of Jerusalem Affairs portfolio as compensation for losing Strategic Affairs and Netanyahu met his demand.
The Ministry of Intelligence is led by Eli Cohen from the Likud Party.He previously held the post of Minister of the Economy and Industry and was a member of the Security Cabinet of Israel.
He has a MBA in Accounting and in ance, as well as specific qualifications and skills in management.
The current Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee is Aryeh Deri, from Shas, the Haredi religious political party.
He previously served as Minister of the Economy and in 1999 he was convicted to a three-year jail sentence on bribery and fraud charges.
He was born in Morocco and he is the brother of Rabbi Beer Sheva. In 1998, as Interior Minister, he abolished the censorship of plays in theatres.
TheMinistry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, which is not a permanent Ministry in Israeli politics, is led by Rafi Peretz,who served as the Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defence Forces and is currently leader of the “Jewish Home” party.
He was born in Jerusalem to parents of Moroccan Jewish descent and in 2019 he served as Minister of Education.
Avi Nissenkorn is the current Minister of Justice. He is a lawyer and former General Secretary of Histadrut labour union.
He is a member of the “Blue and White” alliance.
His parents immigrated from Poland. In February 2016 he became a member of the Labour Party and later joined the Israel Resilience Party led by Benny Gantz.
The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services is led by Itzik Shmuli, a Labour Party member and former leader of the National Union of Israeli Students.
His parents are of Iraqi Jewish descent: He was conscripted to the Israel Defence Forces in 1998 and served as tank commander. In 2001 he opened a restaurant and catering company with his father in Tel Aviv where he worked for two years. In 2003 he moved to Argentina. After returning to Israel, he attended the Oranim Academic College and graduated in Special Education and Social Community Action. As stated in various articles, he officially belongs to the LGBT community.
He is a member of the Zionist Union.
A member of the Likud Party, Yuval Steinitz, is the current Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources.
He served as Minister of Finance (2009-2013) and as Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs (2013-2015). He holds a Ph.D in Philosophy and was a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa.
He joined the “Peace Now” movement as a young student.
The Minister of Public Security, who deals with Police Forces, Prison System and Fire Department, is led by Amir Ohana, another member of the LGBT community.
He previously held the post of Minister of Justice. His parents are Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Morocco. He served in the IDF as a road accident investigator in the Military Police. After leaving regular military service, he served in the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency.
He is also Chairman of the Likudgay caucus Likud Pride.
Gilad Erdan from the Likud Party is the current Regional Cooperation Minister.
He formerly held the posts of Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs, as well as Minister of Information, Minister of Environmental Protection, Minister of Communications, Home Front Defence Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs.
Son of Romanian Jews of Hungarian descent, he studied law at Bar-Ilan University and practices as a lawyer. He is also legal advisor to Benyamin Netanyahu.
He is very close to the U.S. Evangelical Zionist network and was also Israeli Ambassador to the United States from January 2020 to date.
Yaakov Avitan is the current Minister of Religious Affairs. He is the son of the Rabbi of Be’er Tuvla Regional Council. He was ordained as a Rabbi at the age of 19 and is a current member of the Shas party.
The Ministry of Science and Technology is led by Yizar Shai from the “Blue and White” alliance.
He was born to parents from Argentina. In 1981 he started his national service in the Israel Defence Forces, joining the Paratroopers Brigade and serving in the 1982 Lebanon War.
He studied at Technion, the best scientific university in Israel and in the whole Middle East, established in 1912, which is currently 85thin the world’s scientific university ranking.
He established the Business Layers company in 1998.
The Ministry of Settlement Affairs is led by Tzipi Hotovely from the Likud Party.
She already served as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and has a sound legal background.
She practices Orthodox Judaism and was born to parents who immigrated to Israel from Georgia. She is a famous TV journalist, known for her radical anti-assimilation views on Israeli Arabs.
Meirav Cohen is the Minister for Social Equality and was born to parents who immigrated from Morocco.
During her national service in the Israel Defence Forces she worked at Army radio as a presenter and editor. She studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for a BA in Economics and Business Administration. She is a member of the “Blue and White” alliance.
Orit Farkash-Hacohen, from the “Blue and White” alliance, was appointed Minister of Strategic Affairs. She was previously Chairwoman of the Electricity Authority.
She had a career as lawyer and worked for the Anti-Trust Authority. Between 2006 and 2007 she attended Harvard University, earning a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
Asaf Zamir serves as the new Minister of Tourism for the “Blue and White” alliance. Formerly Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, his family lived in the United States for four years during his childhood. During his national service in the Israel Defence Forces he served in the central control unit of the Israel Air Force. After graduating from Tel Aviv University, he started his career as a lawyer.
An old friend of Italy, Miri Regev, was appointed Minister of Transportation for the Likud Party. She also previously served as Minister of Culture and Sports. Her father was from Morocco and her mother from Spain.
She began serving as the IDF spokeperson’s representative in the Israeli Southern Command and in 2003 she was appointed coordinator of the national public relations efforts at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office in preparation for the IraqWar.
She continued to work in the field of military communication during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the 2006 Lebanon War.
Finally, Tzachi Hanegbi, a national security expert, is the current Minister without portfolio at the Prime Minister’s Office.
He previously served as Minister of Agriculture and rural Development and Minister of Regional Cooperation, as well as Minister of Justice, Minister of Internal Security, Minister of Intelligence and Nuclear Affairs and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office supervising Israel’s Intelligence Agencies. He was born to a family of founders of the covert and underground organizations that later reported to the Likud Party.
Israel and Turkey in search of solutions
Twelve and eleven years have elapsed since the Davos and Mavi Marmara incidents, respectively, and Turkey-Israel relations are undergoing intense recovery efforts. They are two important Eastern neighbours and influence regional stability.
Currently, as in the past, relations between the two countries have a structure based on realpolitik, thus pursuing a relationship of balance/interest, and hinge around the Palestinian issue and Israel’s position as the White House’s privileged counterpart. However, let us now briefly summarise the history of Turkish-Jewish relations.
The first important event that comes to mind when mentioning Jews and Turks is that when over 200,000 Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1491, the Ottoman Empire invited them to settle in its territory.
Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel in 1949. Israel’s first diplomatic Mission to Turkey was opened on January 7, 1950 but, following the Suez crisis in 1956, relations were reduced to the level of chargé d’affaires. In the second Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Turkey chose not to get involved and it did not allow relations to break off completely.
The 1990s saw a positive trend and development in terms of bilateral relations. After the second Gulf War in 1991 -which, as you may recall, followed the first Iraqi one of 1980-1988 in which the whole world was against Iran (with the only exception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Libya and the moral support of Enver Hoxha’s Albania) – Turkey was at the centre of security policy in the region. In that context, Turkey-Israel relations were seriously rekindled.
In 1993, Turkey upgraded diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassadorial level. The signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestine and Israel led to closer relations. The 1996 military cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, which provided significant logistical and intelligence support to both sides.
In the 2000s, there was a further rapprochement with Israel, due to the “zero problems with neighbours” policy promoted by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. I still remember issue No. 3/1999 of the Italian review of geopolitics “Limes” entitled “Turkey-Israel, the New Alliance”.
In 2002, an Israeli company undertook the project of modernising twelve M-60 tanks belonging to the Turkish armed forces. In 2004, Turkey agreed to sell water to Israel from the Manavgat River.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Israel in 2005 was a turning point in terms of mediation between Palestine and Israel and further advancement of bilateral relations. In 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas spoke at the Turkish Grand National Assembly one day apart. High-level visits from Israel continued.
On December 22, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Ankara and met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In that meeting, significant progress was made regarding Turkey’s mediation between Israel and Syria.
Apart from the aforementioned incidents, the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations occurred five days after the above stated meeting, i.e. Operation “Cast Lead” against Gaza on December 27, 2008. After that event, relations between the two sides were never the same as before.
Recently, however, statements of goodwill have been made by both countries to normalise political relations. In December 2020, President Erdoğan stated he wanted to improve relations with Israel and said: “It is not possible for us to accept Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinian territories. This is the point in which we differ from Israel – otherwise, our heart desires to improve our relations with it as well”.
In its relations with Israel, Turkey is posing the Palestinian issue as a condition. When we look at it from the opposite perspective, the Palestinian issue is a vital matter for Israel. It is therefore a severe obstacle to bilateral relations.
On the other hand, many regional issues such as Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and some security issues in the region require the cooperation of these two key countries. For this reason, it is clear that both sides wish at least to end the crisis, reduce rhetoric at leadership level and focus on cooperation and realpolitik areas.
In the coming months, efforts will certainly be made to strike a balance between these intentions and the conditions that make it necessary to restart bilateral relations with Israel on an equal footing. As improved relations with Israel will also positively influence Turkey’s relations with the United States.
Turkey seeks to avoid the USA and the EU imposing sanctions that could go so far as to increase anti-Western neo-Ottoman rhetoric, while improved relations with Israel could offer a positive outcome not only to avoid the aforementioned damage, but also to solve the Turkish issues related to Eastern Mediterranean, territorial waters, Libya and Syria. Turkey has no intention of backing down on such issues that it deems vital. Quite the reverse. It would like to convey positive messages at the level of talks and Summits.
Another important matter of friction between Turkey and Israel is the use of oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean reserves between Egypt, Israel, Greece and Cyprus (Nicosia).
This approach is excluding Turkey. The USA and the EU also strongly support the current situation (which we addressed in a previous article) for the additional reason that France has been included in the equation.
The alignment of forces and fronts in these maritime areas were also widely seen during the civil war in Libya, where Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, as well as other players such as Russia, Italy, etc. came into the picture.
Ultimately, a point of contact between Turkey and Israel is the mediation role that the former could play in relations between Iran and Israel, especially after the improvement of Turkish-Iranian relations.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the U.S. airstrike in Baghdad – which killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020 -the Turkish Foreign Minister stated that the U.S. action would increase insecurity and instability in the region. He also reported that Turkey was worried about rising tensions between the United States and Iran that could turn Iraq back into an area of conflict to the detriment of peace and stability in the region. There was also a condolence phone call from President Erdoğan to Iranian President Rouhani, urging him to avoid a conflictual escalation with the United States following the airstrike.
Consequently, it is in the Turkish President’s interest to maintain an open channel with Iran, so that he himself can soften the mutual tensions between Israel and Iran, and – in turn – Israeli diplomacy can influence President Biden’s choices, albeit less pro-Israel than Donald Trump’s.
Turkey is known to have many relationship problems with the United States – especially after the attempted coup of July 15-16, 2016 and including the aforementioned oil issue – and realises that only Israel can resolve the situation smoothly.
In fact, Israel-USA relations are not at their best as they were under President Trump. President Erdoğan seems to be unaware of this fact, but indeed the Turkish President knows that the only voice the White House can hear is Israel’s, and certainly not the voice of the Gulf monarchies, currently at odds with Turkey.
Israel keeps a low profile on the statements made by President Erdoğan with regard to the Palestinians- since it believes them to be consequential – as well as in relation to a series of clearly anti-Zionist attitudes of the Turkish people.
We are certain, however, that President Erdoğan’s declarations of openness and Israeli acquiescence will surely yield concrete results.
The 25-year China-Iran agreement
On March 27, 2021, a document entitled “Comprehensive Document of Iran-China Cooperation” was signed by Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, and his Chinese counterpart. The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had previously called “the agreement between the presidents of Iran and China correct and wise.” However, the Iranian people have widely criticized it as entirely against their national interests. Iranian officials have not even publicized the document’s contents yet probably because it is highly contentious.
In 2019, excerpts from this document were revealed by the Economist Petroleum news site. The details included:
- China invests $460 billion in Iranian oil and transportation sectors. China will get its investment back from the sale of Iranian crude during the first five years.
- China buys Iranian petroleum products at least 32% cheaper.
- The Chinese can decide before other companies whether to participate in completing all or part of a petrochemical project.
- 50,000 Chinese security personnel will be deployed to protect Chinese projects in Iran.
- China has the right to delay the repayment of its debts for up to two years in exchange for Iranian products’ purchase.
- At least one Russian company will be allowed to participate in the Tabriz-Ankara gas pipeline design together with the Chinese operator.
- Every year, 110 senior Revolutionary Guards officers travel to China and Russia for military training. 110 Chinese and Russian advisers will be stationed in Iran to train Revolutionary Guards officers.
- Development of Iranian military equipment and facilities will be outsourced to China, and Chinese and Russian military aircraft and ships will operate the developed facilities.
Even some circles within the regime have criticized the agreement. The state-run Arman newspaper wrote, “China has a 25-year contract with Iran and is investing $460 billion in Iran. It is somewhat ambiguous. Presently, China is holding the money it owes us and blames it on the U.S. sanctions. How can we trust this country to invest $460 billion in Iran?”
Last year, Iran and China had the lowest trade in the previous 16 years, and according to statistics, by the end of 2020, the volume of trade between Iran and China was about $16 billion, which, including undocumented oil sales, still does not reach $20 billion.
Jalal Mirzaei, a former member of Iran’s parliament, said: “If in the future the tensions between Tehran and Washington are moderated, and we see the lifting of some of the sanctions, China can also provide the basis for implementing the provisions of this document, but if the situation continues like today, Beijing will not make any effort to implement the document, as it is essentially unable to take concrete action on the ground because of the sanctions.”
Iran is vital to China in two ways, through its geopolitical location and its geo-economic importance. China knows that it does not have enough natural resources and is currently having a hard time supplying them from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia supplies its energy needs from oil giant Aramco, half of which is owned by the United States. That is why China is looking for a safe alternative that the United States will not influence, and the only option is Iran. They may also have a two-pronged plan in Iran, which involves using Iran’s profitable market and making Iran into a lever of pressure against the United States for additional concessions.
The Iranian regime’s objectives
The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. While the international dispute over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program has not been resolved, it is unclear how much this agreement could be implemented. The regime intends to make it a bargaining chip in possible future nuclear negotiations. However, some of Iran’s top authorities believe that China and Russia cannot be trusted 100 percent.
Due to the sanctions, the regime has a tough time to continue providing financial support to its proxy militias in the region. The regime also faced two major domestic uprisings in 2017 and 2019. Khamenei’s regime survived the widespread uprisings by committing a massacre, killing 1,500 young protesters in the 2019 uprising alone, according to the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and later confirmed by the Iranian regime’s Interior Ministry officials. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, Khamenei has been able to delay another major uprising.
Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. Khamenei must bow to western countries’ demands regarding the nuclear issue, including an end to its regional interventions and its ballistic missile program. Khamenei will struggle to save his regime from s imminent uprisings and a deteriorating economy that will undoubtedly facilitate more protests by the army of the unemployed and the hungry at any moment.
Unlike the 2015 JCPOA, the Iranian regime in 2021 is in a much weaker position. In fact, by many accounts, it is the weakest in its 40-year history. By signing the recent Iran-China agreement and auctioning Iranian resources, Khamenei wants to pressure the United States to surrender and restore the 2015 JCPOA as quickly as possible. But in the end, this pivot will not counteract domestic pressures that target the regime’s very existence.
China-Arab Relations: From Silk to Friendship
China and the Arabs have a long and rich economic and cultural history, and this distinguished relationship still exists today, with a promising future. This bilateral relationship between the two nations is based on the principles of respect and non-interference in internal affairs or foreign policies. Therefore, China’s relationship with the Arabs as well as with other nations is unique and a model to be followed. If you meet a Chinese person, the first phrase will be “Alabo” or an Arab in Mandarin, and he/she will welcome you. The Chinese state’s dealings with its counterparts can be measured based on the model of this Chinese citizen. China deals with the Arabs on the basis of friendship and historical ties.
The history of Sino-Arab relations goes back to the Tang Dynasty, and these relations developed with the flourishing of trade between the two nations. Since China was famous for its high quality silk, this trade route was called the “Silk Road”. Baron Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen, better known in English as Baron von Richthofen, was a German traveller, geographer, and scientist. He is noted for coining the terms “Seidenstraße” and “Seidenstraßen” = “Silk Road” or “Silk Route” in 1877.
Chinese-Arab relations have developed in contemporary history. In 1930, China established official relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A library in China was named the “Fouad Islamic Library”, after the late Egyptian king, “Fuad the First”. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cut ties with China and established relations with the Communist People’s Republic of China and inaugurated an embassy in Egypt. In the same year, the Arab League established relations with the People’s Republic of China. By the year 1990, all Arab countries cut their relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
In 2004, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, and today it is considered a milestone for the Sino-Arab relationship. At its inauguration, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing delivered a speech stating:“The Arab world is an important force on the international scene, and that China and the Arab countries have enjoyed a long friendship. Our similar history, our common goals and our broad interests have been credited with enhancing cooperation between the two sides; no matter how the international situation changes, China has always been the sincere friend of the Arab world”. The China-Arab Cooperation Forum was officially established during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the headquarters of the League of Arab States in January of 2004.
Hu Jintao indicated at that time that the formation of the forum is a continuation of the traditional friendship between China and the Arab world. The Chinese president said at the time, “The establishment of the forum is conducive to expanding mutual cooperation in a variety of fields. He added that China had made four proposals; First, maintaining mutual respect, fair treatment and sincere cooperation at the political level. Second, strengthening economic and trade relations through cooperation in the fields of investment and trade, contracted projects, labor services, energy, transportation, communications, agriculture, environmental protection and information. Third, expand cultural exchanges. Finally, conducting training for the employees.”
During the second session of the forum in Beijing in 2006, China showed its sympathy for the issues of the Arab world and its interest in the peace process between Palestine and Israel, since China is a peace-loving country; it presented the idea of “a nuclear-free Middle East”. China is the best friend of the Arab countries today. Although some Arab countries have strong relations with the West whose policy does not match the Chinese policy, but all Arab countries agree on friendly and good relations with the People’s Republic of China.
The Arab citizen is not interested today in the foreign policy of the US, the deadly weapons of the US and Russia, or European culture, but rather the livelihood and economy, and this is what China provides through its wise economic policy. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road, which will restore glow to China-Arab relations; as the Arab world is in a strategic location on the initiative map. Thus, the Arab countries are an important partner for China in the initiative. Although the volume of trade exchanges between China and the Arab countries exceeded 200 billion US dollars, which increased 10 times over the past decade, there was no commercial and institutional arrangement to facilitate trade between the two sides.
China, as a peaceful and non-invasive country, aims to promote economic cooperation with Arab region on an equal basis because it considers the Arab world a historic partner. The historical experience of the Arabs with the Chinese through the Silk Road has confirmed that China differs from the nations of colonialism and imperialism, which consider the Arab region a place rich in natural resources only. In his historic speech at the Arab League, Chinese President Xi stressed that China will not seek to extend influence and search for proxies in the Middle East. The Chinese initiatives will contribute to establishing security and stability through economic development and improving the people’s livelihood, in line with the post-2015 development agenda and the aspirations of the Arab people for a better life, as the Chinese experience proves that development is the key to digging out the roots of conflicts and extremism in all its forms.
China is a neutral country and does not favor the use of violence. During the Syrian crisis, for example, the Chinese envoy to the Security Council raised his hand three times, meaning that China, with its wise diplomacy, supported the Syrian regime without entering the military war. During the recent Chinese military parade, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed some Chinese military capabilities and thus sent a message to the enemies that China will always be ready if a war is imposed on it, and a message of support to China’s allies. The Arab region today needs a real partner who possesses economic and military power and international political influence, such as China; to ensure the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, and to consolidate the China-Arab relations and raise it to the level of a strategic alliance.
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