Jerusalem – Israel and Turkey have managed to retain military cooperation despite rising political tension, a report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said.

The report asserted that the Islamist government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has kept their military partnership with Israel despite their political crisis this year. Still, the Center, in a report by a leading U.S. analyst, warned that Israeli-Turkish relations were threatened by Ankara’s strategic alliance with Syria.

“Israel’s military relationship with Turkey, including ongoing joint air force training, military exchanges, and arms sales, appears to be secure for the time being,” the report, titled “The Islamist Transformation in Turkish Politics,” said. “Should bilateral political tensions continue, and as Ankara and Damascus enhance strategic ties, inevitably Israeli-Turkish military-to-military relations will suffer.”

Authored by former U.S. Defense Department analyst David Schenker, the report did not detail current Israeli-Turkish military cooperation. Instead, Mr. Schenker pointed to Turkey’s cancellation of Israel’s participation in the NATO-aligned Anatolian Eagle exercise in October 2009.

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In the wake of the cancellation, the Turkish government announced plans to conduct a Turkish military exercise with Syria. The report said Ankara’s decision was expected and reflected the policy of the ruling pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party.

The report said Turkey’s key motive for a military alliance with Israel, launched in 1996, was Ankara’s war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). By 1999, Turkey had forced Syria to expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and later arrested him. Since 2002, Syria and Turkey have signed 46 agreements, including a military training pact.

“Turkey no longer needed Israeli assistance to pressure the Syrian government to change its policy of providing safe-haven to the terrorist Kurdish Worker’s Organization,” the report said.

Mr. Schenker, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, said Ankara’s embrace of Syria over the last three years reflected the decline of Turkey’s military. He said Mr. Erdogan’s party, which has succeeded in marginalizing the military, has been promoting relations with such countries as Qatar, Sudan and Syria while rejecting pro-Western Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.

“Today, the Turkish military can do little to impact the policies of the Islamist AKP (Justice and Development Party), which promote solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes while dismissing secular, pro-Western Muslim governments,” the report said.

The report said Turkey began weakening its relationship with Israel as early as 2006. This year, however, Ankara sparked a crisis with Israel during its war with Hamas as the Turkish government improved relations with Syria. This included the first Syrian-Turkish military exercise in April.

“Clearly, 2009 was a watershed year for the Turkey-Syria bilateral relationship and a year of setbacks for Israeli-Turkish ties,” the report said. “While the long-term implications of these developments remain to be seen, the current trajectory is not cause for optimism.”

Mr. Schenker said Turkey’s support for Iran and Syria has raised concern within NATO. He said Ankara’s pro-Iranian policy could harm U.S. interests in the Middle East. “Perhaps more worrisome is the prospect that Ankara may, over time, pursue a closer foreign policy alignment with Iran that would undermine U.S. and Israeli regional interests,” the report said.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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