Erdogan and Netanyahu agree to reset bilateral relations

Erdogan and Netanyahu agree to reset bilateral relations

The office of the presumptive next Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to reset bilateral ties during a 12-minute phone call.

Relations deteriorated rapidly under Netanyahu’s premiership and he is expected to return to office soon to lead Israel’s most right-wing ever government.

Relations were improving under the outgoing premier, Yair Lapid, who met Erdogan in New York in September, the first such meeting in 14 years.

But under Netanyahu, the repeated attacks on Hamas in Gaza and the 2010 Mediterranean Sea flotilla raid by the Israeli military soured relations.

Netanyahu’s staff said the two men vowed to renew relations and cooperate and start afresh during a phone call on Thursday. Netanyahu is trying to form a parliamentary majority after this month’s general election.

Erdogan’s office said Netanyahu initiated the call, to offer condolences for the Istanbul explosion. The veteran strongman president said he wished the November election results “will be beneficial for the country and the region”.

Erdogan’s office quoted the president saying that Turkey and Israel had entered a new era in relations, seemingly crediting the outgoing Israeli administration for reducing tensions.

But Erdogan congratulated the prime minister-designate on his election victory.

He has criticised Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and Israel has objected to Turkish support for Hamas.

Ambassadors were withdrawn in 2010 after the Israeli armed forces raided Gaza-bound vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in defiance of an Israeli blockade. In hand-to-hand combat, IDF commandos killed nine reportedly armed activists from an organisation affiliated with Erdogan.

Netanyahu apologised to Erdogan, under US pressure and the countries reinstated their ambassadors. But Turkey expelled the Israeli envoy after Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and in response Israel ejected the Turkish representative.

However, Israeli President Isaac Herzog paid a state visit to Turkey in March and the former allies agreed to exchange ambassadors.

The new Turkish ambassador to Israel was confirmed last Friday, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, a veteran diplomat and former ambassador to Palestine, who was recently a member of Turkey’s Foreign Policy Advisory Board.

Israel and Turkey still share strategic interests, including containing Iran and they share borders with volatile Syria.

The Gaza flotila leaves Turkey in 2010. Picture credit: YouTube

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