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Making Sense of Israel, Erdoğan, and Turkey

Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak

Mosaic, July 8, 2022

“Today, Turkish interests dictate that Erdoğan reconcile with Israel, and that’s what he’s doing. It doesn’t mean that he’s doing it because he really believes in his heart that it’s right.”

Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak is the Turkey analyst at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is the editor of Turkeyscope: Insights on Turkish Affairs.

On June 28, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, the author of our June essay, “Can a Renewed Alliance Between Israel and Turkey Stabilize the Middle East?,” sat down with Andrew Koss, Mosaic’s senior editor, to talk about Israeli-Turkish relations. Yanarocak comments on the two responses to his essay, which presented diametrically opposed views of the subject, but also expounds on much else. Besides the key issues of geopolitics, Turkey’s relations with Islamic State and with Iran, and the role of Islamism in its foreign policy, the discussion also covered Turkish-Jewish history, Yanarocak’s own family and experiences, and the way the country has changed over the course of the past century. The transcript has been edited for clarity and concision.

Andrew Koss:

You’ve written a brilliant essay for Mosaic about Israeli-Turkish relations. Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the essay, and the two responses to it, I think our readers would like to know a little bit about you. You’re an Israeli who was born in Turkey. Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak:

I was born in Istanbul in 1984 to a Jewish family. I grew up in a Zionist and conservative family. From the time I was a small child, I was sent to synagogue to learn about Judaism and to study Torah. I also would like to underline that I come from a secular family. We were not strictly religious. We would make kiddush on Friday night with the television remote control in one hand and the cup of wine in the other. It may seem illogical to some, but that’s how I grew up.

That being said, we were very conscious of Judaism. I grew up with a strong Jewish identity. The first flag I ever held in my hand was an Israeli flag that my mother brought me from Israel. And Judaism—its symbols, the Israeli flag, etc.—were very much present in my home in Istanbul. After finishing primary school, I enrolled in a Jewish high school and then decided to make aliyah to Israel. But unfortunately in 2002, because of the security situation in Israel, my parents decided not to send me to Israel. So I completed my BA degree in Istanbul. After that I came to Israel and continued my studies and pursued a doctorate.

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