Since the victory of the Islamic Party in Turkey in 2008 and the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkish Prime Minister, Turkey has adopted an active and assertive regional foreign policy that reflects considerable self-confidence. Turkey’s policy seeks to strengthen Turkey’s relations with its neighbors, especially Iran, Iraq, and Syria, in order to give Turkey strategic depth and turn it into an influential regional power. This is to be accomplished by taking advantage of the regional upheaval perceived by the Turkish government as an opportunity to promote Turkey’s regional interests and influence.
As one of the instruments to promote its influence, Turkey makes use of NGOs. One of these organizations is the IHH, a radical Islamic organization that sees itself, among other things, as an aid to Turkish policy. This organization was an active participant in the organization of flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip, the most prominent of which was the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
In light of this policy of the Turkish government headed by Erdoğan, relations between Israel and Turkey gradually changed. Turkey has increasingly begun to stand by the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, particularly the Hamas movement. The Turkish government transfers funds and aid to Hamas, and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan has repeatedly condemned Israel’s policy.
The height of the escalation in Israeli-Turkish relations followed the events of the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010. Nine Turkish nationals, members of the IHH, were killed in a violent attack that they mounted against the Israel Navy’s efforts to prevent them from entering the Gaza port. As a result, the level of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey was lowered. After lengthy negotiations, the Mavi Marmara affair was resolved and in 2016, after a long break, Turkey and Israel renewed diplomatic relations.