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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 14:24 GMT

World: Middle East

Analysis: Middle East's 'phantom alliance'

Kurds protesting against the shooting outside the Israeli embassy

By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The shooting of three Kurds by Israeli security guards after they tried to take over the Israeli Consulate in Berlin came after reports suggested that the Israeli security service - Mossad - had a hand in the operation leading to the capture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The Ocalan File
Israel has denied any involvement in the Turkish operation to seize the Kurdish leader.

But suggestions of an Israeli link have been prompted by the ever-closer military ties between Ankara and Israel.

Over the past few years Israel and Turkey have forged a new partnership which has significantly altered the strategic map of the Middle East.

One American columnist recently referred to the three-way relationship between Washington, Ankara and Israel as "a phantom alliance"; the implication being that it was all developing very much on the quiet.

Visible phantom

But the ties between Israel and Turkey are there for all to see. There is indeed a phantom element but it is a very real phantom: the line of Turkish phantom jets being upgraded at the Israel Aircraft Industry's plant near Tel Aviv's airport.

[ image: Israel's arms industry badly needs the business]
Israel's arms industry badly needs the business
Israel has military and manufacturing expertise that the Turks want. Israel's arms industry badly needs the business.

It has already won a number of orders and hopes to win more as the Turkish armed forces embark upon ambitious modernisation plans.

But apart from arms sales, what does Israel get in return? For one thing a commodity that is in short supply in the Jewish State - air space.

Israeli Air Force pilots now conduct some of their training in Turkey and Turkish pilots have also flown in Israel. That is the visible part of the relationship.

Joint security operations

But beneath the surface there is much more: joint strategic planning, and maybe even joint intelligence gathering - Turkish territory providing a listening post to watch both Syria and Iraq.

How far the Israeli and Turkish security services are involved in joint operations is much harder to say.

Recently, two Israeli agents were arrested in Cyprus amid claims that they were gathering information on possible deployment sites for new Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles.

Turkey had threatened to attack the sites if the weapons were ever deployed. Israel and Turkey insist that their new strategic partnership represents no threat to any other country in the region.

It clearly has many benefits to both governments. But for Israel it may already have demonstrated one negative aspect. The Israeli government may now have to contend with the anger of the Kurds.

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