This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and has been reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox for free.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Wednesday and agreed on the reinstatement of their respective ambassadors and consul generals, thus restoring full diplomatic relations.
Lapid said in a statement that “the restoration of ties with Turkey is an important asset for the stability of the region and is of great economic importance for Israeli citizens.
“We will continue to work and strengthen Israel’s international standing in the world,” Lapid said.
President Isaac Herzog also hailed the renewal of diplomatic relations with Turkey, calling it an “important development”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the appointment of new ambassadors will start in the coming days, and it is a “positive step” in relations between the two countries. He added that Turkey will continue to protect Palestinian rights through its renewed relationship with Israel.
I welcome the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Turkey – an important development we have been pursuing for the past year, which will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples. 🇮🇱🇹🇷 @RTErdogan pic.twitter.com/If5JsKfAfV
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) August 17, 2022
Both Ankara and Jerusalem withdrew their respective ambassadors following the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018, after more than a decade of tensions between the two capitals, including following a incidents such as the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine people were killed by Israelis. troops on a Turkish ship attempting to break through the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Yet despite the lack of high-level diplomatic ties, Israel has retained several indirect methods of communication with Ankara, which was previously a close regional ally, and Erdogan has told Jewish leaders that his country’s relations with Israel are “vital for the stability of our region” and that “we must all work together to strengthen peace and stability in the Middle East”.
Despite this, he and his associates have maintained a steady stream of critical (and sometimes anti-Semitic) remarks, with Erdogan accusing Israel of “killing children and babies” as recently as last week. During his remarks, he said his administration’s regional diplomacy and ties with Israel “are back on track” and serve to “defend the rights of our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
Erdogan has made efforts to renew diplomatic ties with Israel over the past two years, but has been met with suspicion by Israeli officials. “A change of direction in Israel was necessary in order to rehabilitate relations between Israel and Turkey,” said Dr. Nimrod Goren, president of the Mitvim research institute for regional foreign policy. “Since June, the two countries have embarked on a slow and cautious process of improving their diplomatic relations,” he added.
In March, President Isaac Herzog and Erdogan met in Ankara, marking the first official Israeli visit by a statesman in 14 years. In a joint statement at the end of Herzog’s trip, Erdogan said the meeting was “historic and will serve as a turning point in relations between the two countries”.
Israeli political figures fear that further about-faces by the Turkish leader, particularly on the Palestinian question, could lead to a new breakdown just after an exchange of ambassadors. One of Israel’s main demands before advancing relations is that Ankara work harder to stop Hamas activities in Turkey and take a hard line against Hamas actions against Israelis.
At the same time, both Israel and Turkey want to strengthen their coordination regarding their attacks in Syria. Both see the Iranian presence in Syria as a threat to their stability, each is active in the air over Syria, and each deals with the Russian military presence there.
Both countries have an interest in improving dialogue on this issue to prevent Turkey from harming Israeli aircraft and vice versa. They also recently discussed the possibility of cooperation in what has been defined as “regional architecture”, with the aim of restraining the terror of Iranians trying to gain a foothold in Syria.
Prior to the visit, Erdogan had tried to warm relations between the countries, publicly stating that he wanted to meet President Herzog in order to achieve this goal. A Turkish source revealed that Erdogan sees Herzog as a “responsible adult” in Israel’s tumultuous political landscape in recent years.
The change in attitude towards Israel coincided with the economic crisis in Turkey. Israeli officials were initially wary of Erdogan, who is known for his criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinians.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrived for a two-day visit in May, followed by a visit to Ankara by Prime Minister Yair Lapid in June, during which he thanked Turkey for thwarting the Iranian terrorist attempts targeting Israelis on its soil, pointing to rapidly improving ties.
Prior to Lapid’s visit, nearly ten suspects were arrested in an operation in Istanbul on suspicion of planning targeted attacks against Israeli diplomats and tourist groups in Istanbul.