President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Israel just days after his own Defence Minister will be there to discuss regional energy security, could turn out to be a landmark occasion, where traditional and regional strategies could take a new turn for the better if host Benyamin Netanyahu plays his cards right.
After the humiliating obligation to apologise to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel should rethink its former relationship with Ankara and whether it needs to revisit the old days of military and economic alliances. No matter what Turkish officials say, they have revealed their true faces and the feelings are no longer warm, as suggested by Premier Erdogan’s rhetoric of support to the Palestinians and Syrian rebels and stoking Lebanon’s sore note over its southern maritime borders.
Turkey thrives on regional conflict and its expansionist ambitions as the only way to remain an asset to its primary sponsors either side of the Atlantic. It has also duped leaders in Washington, Moscow and London into investing in expensive pipelines, supposedly to carry cheap gas fuel from Baku, that are underutilised and prone to terrorist attacks. Which is why some form of détente with the Kurds comes in handy.
But Israel now has an opportunity, thanks to its recent natural gas finds, to become an ally of choice and irreplaceable energy supplier to most western European states, fed up with Russia’s antics to switch the tap on and off based on the whims of leaders in the Kremlin.
The Jewish state must overcome its fears of economic and energy isolation as in Cyprus it has a genuine friend with honest neighbourly intentions. The people and the government of Cyprus have no qualms with Israel, just a sense of mistrust over the latter’s open-arms relations of the past with Ankara. For Israel, the natgas liquefaction plant at Vassiliko is a way out of its dilemma over surplus gas exports, while the subsea electricity cable project will ensure ample power supply, regardless of the explosive situation in some neighbouring states. Patrolling “friendly” waters in the eastern Mediterranean by the Israeli Navy also provides a sense of safety to foreign investors in both EEZs, while strategic cooperation for the IAF to use the Paphos airfield will allow Israel to extend its own security blanket to beyond the confines of its own boundaries.
In the absence of all-out support from Israel, Turkey’s regional role will gradually diminish, giving the Jewish state the chance to sit down and talk to all its neighbours, possibly resolving some of the biggest issues that have hindered its thirst for peace for the past six decades. And Cyprus can help in that direction, if it is asked to do so.
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