One of the interesting questions brought up by the recent elections held in Israel is if the new government that's being created there can somehow help improve the country's still extremely strained relations with Turkey. Although Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will again be prime minister of the new government, the emergence of the centrist Yesh Atid ("There is a future") party, which will play a key role in whatever coalition Netanyahu puts together, puts forward the possibility that Israel's foreign policy could stop the rightward drift that it took under former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, something which could have a positive impact on relations with Turkey.
Writing in the Hurriyet Daily News, Tel Aviv University-based researcher Gallia Lindenstrauss takes a look at the possible Yesh Atid effect:
Yesh Atid followed the growing trend in Israel of having journalists as key party members (in comparison, there was a sharp decline in ex-army personnel who were elected). In addition to the party chair, Yair Lapid, who was a columnist and television anchorman before entering politics, another new Yesh Atid member of Parliament is the newspaper and television commentator Ofer Shelah. Shelah is notable since he helped draft the platform for security-related issues in the Yesh Atid party’s program. While these issues were not the main focus of the party’s campaign (and in general were not the key issue of the elections) they are likely to reemerge both in discussions surrounding forming a coalition government and later on.
Yesh Atid’s chair, Yair Lapid, has stressed that he will push to re-launch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This in itself is good news for Turkish-Israeli relations as one of the reasons behind the deterioration of relations was the stall in the peace process. But even with regard to Turkish-Israeli bilateral relations, there is a sliver of hope as Yair Lapid, in one of his first major speeches given in Ariel in October 2012, said the rupture with Turkey is damaging. This was voiced as one of his criticisms of the previous government. Moreover, Ofer Shelah has voiced the opinion that not only has the deterioration in relations with Turkey been strategically damaging to Israel, but that the Israeli Defense Forces should question themselves with regard to how they responded in the Mavi Marmara affair. While Ofer Shelah can be seen as the more leftist voice of this centrist party, he is very close to Yair Lapid.
Lest anyone get too hopeful, the Council on Foreign Relations' Steven Cook, writing in a recent piece posted on The Atlantic's website, suggests there's little reason to believe that the creation of an "allegedly more conciliatory" Israeli government could help improve relations with Turkey. "It is a nice idea, but so are rainbows and unicorns. The reality is that, despite Lapid's rise, nothing has or will likely change to convince Israeli and Turkish leaders that mending ties is in their political interests," he writes. As Cook points out, having downgraded ties with Israel has given Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a domestic and regional boost, with little perceptible cost. Meanwhile, Ankara continues to insist that, along with an apology and compensation, Israel must also lift its blockade of Gaza in order for ties to be restored, a condition that no Israeli government -- right or left -- is likely to accept in the near future.
On the Israeli side, meanwhile, while there are some voices out there pushing for a reconciliation with Turkey, the truth of the matter is that there are many other issues, the majority of them domestic, that will take precedence. Yesh Atid itself was voted in because of the position it took on domestic economic and social issues and will likely not be willing to spend the new political capital it has earned on advocating for restoring ties with Ankara, particularly when Erdogan continues to bash Israel on regular occasion and Turkish prosecutors are moving ahead with legal action against Israeli military personnel who were involved in the Mavi Marmara incident.
Put it all together and the basic picture remains the same as it was before the recent elections in Israel. A new, perhaps more centrist, government will be created in Israel, but despite the inclusion of Yesh Atid in the coalition, the future of Turkish-Israeli relations for now remains bleak.