Turkey will mediate the Next Round of Fighting between Israel and Hamas

What stands in the background of the upcoming reconciliation agreement with the Turks, what is the secret of the Israeli cyber industry, and what are the real capabilities of the F-35 'Adir' launched this week? All the answers in Amir Rapaport's weekly column


The reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey will be signed soon, despite some opposition in the defense establishment. There have been no public discussions on the agreement, and very few deliberations were held by decision makers, if at all.

The agreement is almost a personal project of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when all contacts are managed by his envoy Joseph Ciechanover, backed by the Acting Chairman of the National Security Council Yaakov Nagel.

It appears that the agreement will not be formally signed next week, but the details will be finalized by both parties at a meeting to be held in Eastern Europe. The official signing of the agreement will take place next month.

The agreement will deal with all the disputed issues between the parties since the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, in May 2010. One of the most controversial issues is the Turkish demand that the blockade of the Gaza Strip will be lifted. While the naval blockade will not be lifted, Israel is prepared to show flexibility concerning the future entry of Turkish goods to the Gaza Strip

(Side note: This week, the Israeli Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz suggested to build a designated island off the coast of Gaza for the purpose of inspecting cargo ships. It is unclear whether the timing of bringing up this idea is coincidental. In the past, Israel has seriously considered conducting security checks of cargo ships bound for Gaza in Cypriot ports, so this is not an impossible arrangement in the long term).

If the reconciliation agreement will be reached next week, you can easily see how many achievements it will yield for the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is currently in a difficult political period, especially since the incident in which Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet over Syrian airspace.

The Russian President taught Erdogan a painful lesson and brought the Turkish tourism industry to a halt. The Kurds are also causing Erdogan to lose sleep over the de facto state they established along the border of Syria and Turkey, as well as recurring terrorist attacks.

The agreement with Israel would be considered a diplomatic and economic achievement for Erdogan: The Turks want to be a player in the new energy market of the Middle East. One of their goals is to reduce the overreliance on Russian gas. They also strive to develop hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects in the Gaza Strip, according to the agreement. Among other things, the Turks want to establishment a new hospital, a power plant and a desalination plant, in collaboration with Germany.

Above all, the Turkish leader, a Muslim Brotherhood member, wants to be portrayed as "the defender of the Arabs" and to be seen as the one who looks after the interests of the residents of the Gaza Strip. The agreement will fulfill his dream, at least partially.

From the Israeli perspective, however, the reconciliation agreement is much more complex: the agreement would surely anger Russia, with which Israel maintains sensitive relations, as well as Israel's new allies in recent years – Greece and Cyprus, who are Turkey's enemies. As negotiations progressed in recent weeks, the Greeks tried to convey messages via various channels, saying that Greece is the true ally of Israel. These efforts failed to prevent the breakthrough with Ankara.

Many in the defense establishment, including former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, do not believe that Turkey could regain its 'friendly state' status, in light of its Muslim Brotherhood ideology. On the other hand, Israel has a clear interest in establishing an anti-ISIS axis in the Mediterranean Basin, with the membership of Greece and Turkey.

Above all, it seems that the Israeli interest in reconciliation with Turkey is related primarily to Hamas in Gaza since one of the lessons of Operation Protective Edge was that there was no mediator to end the fighting. Egyptian mediation was unacceptable to Hamas, due to the great animosity between the parties, while Israel did not allow any intervention of the Muslim Brotherhood countries – namely Qatar and Turkey – at any stage of the negotiations.

Should the reconciliation agreement be signed, Turkey will instantly become the most effective route to convey messages to Hamas. This will not prevent the next war in Gaza, which could break out due to misunderstandings, but it would enable a mechanism to end the fighting.

One thing will definitely not happen as a result of the reconciliation agreement: Although the Turks would be happy to receive Israeli intelligence assistance in their fight against the Kurds, the strategic security relations between the countries will not return to the 'glory days' before Erdogan took office. However, the economic relations between the two countries, which include an annual trade of US $5 billion, will continue to flourish – with or without an agreement.

The civil side of cyber security

Last week, a big step was made towards the establishment of the IDF Cyber Arm (as revealed in this column). The revolution of cyber protection in the civilian sectors will soon be completed, upon the completion of a cyber layout which will include a cyber authority (a new entity which began operating two months ago) and a cyber technologies administration, which will soon be established.

Dr. Eviatar Matania, Head of the National Cyber Bureau said on Monday, during the Cyber Week Conference held by the University of Tel Aviv, that Israel is a global pioneer in many areas in the field of cyber. Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, said that Matania is one of the most influential people in the world in the field of cyber security.

This statement and the fact that the conference has attracted thousands of people from around the world shows Israel's leading role in cyberspace.

An important agreement was signed this week: an operational cooperation agreement between Israel and the United States in the field of cyber defense. Head of the National Cyber Bureau, Dr. Eviatar Matania, and head of the National Cyber Defense Authority, Buki Carmeli, have signed the agreement, together with Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and Suzanne Spaulding, Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the US Department of Homeland Security.

The declaration of the agreement expresses the necessity of integrating forces in favor of dealing effectively with common cyber threats. It also highlights the commitment of the two governments to expand and deepen cooperation in the field of cyber protection.

The declaration referred to the major efforts made by the two countries in the aspects of managing cyber incidents, cyber protection of critical infrastructure, establishing partnerships with the private sector and research and development of innovative technologies and solutions. Special emphasis was given to the establishment of mechanisms and processes between the National Cyber Defense Authority and its counterpart in the DHS, which will enable real-time sharing of valuable information. According to its place as a world leader, Israel will be the first country to join the initiative of Homeland Security, designed to produce automated platform between governments and companies to share information quickly and efficiently, allowing the prevention or handling of cyber-attacks.

A system, not just a plane

Against the background of reports that accompanied the rollout ceremony of the first IAF F-35 ('Adir') stealth fighter, held on Wednesday in Texas, not many realized that this is much more than a plane. The 'Adir' is a formidable combat system, which can operate almost independently anywhere in the Middle East and perform a variety of offensive or intelligence-gathering operations.

Computer and communication systems of the aircraft are almost imaginary. Toward the assimilation of the aircraft in Israel, many technological projects were launched by the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT). Unfortunately, some of the projects are delayed due to budgetary or technological difficulties.

Mobilizing these strategically significant projects will be one of the tasks awaiting Brig. Gen. (res.) Danny Gold, who will take office next Thursday as head of MAFAT. Gold has gained much publicity as having been one of the significant factors for the success of Rafael's Iron Dome system when he served as head of R&D at MAFAT.

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