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Following years of tense relations, Turkish president announces future Israel visit after meeting Netanyahu

Erdoğan makes the announcement while meeting with Jewish leaders in New York

Turkey's President Recep Erdoğan addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 19, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed his intention to visit Israel during a Wednesday meeting with 15 senior Jewish officials in New York.

“I have an open channel with President (Isaac) Herzog and now I also have an open channel with (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu,” Erdoğan said.

American Rabbi Marc Schneier, who heads The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, also met Erdoğan and welcomed the Turkish leader's intentions to visit Israel.

“Always a pleasure to spend time with my distinguished friend Türkiye's President “RTErdogan who hosted earlier today a select group of U.S. Jewish leaders at the Turkish House during #UNGA78. Touched on a host of issues including President Erdogan’s upcoming plans to visit Israel," wrote Schneier on X (former Twitter), along with a photo of him with the Turkish president.

Erdoğan has a history of controversial antisemitic statements. However, William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP) who met with the Turkish premier, said he believes Erdoğan is committed to healthy ties with Israel and opposes anti-Jewish sentiments.

"Our meeting with President Erdogan was warm and engaging. He reiterated his commitment to fostering a stable and productive relationship with the State of Israel and expressed his determination to combat antisemitism, which he labeled a 'crime against humanity',” Daroff said.

The Turkish president, a devout Muslim, also said he hopes to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem when he makes his first visit to the nation's capital. The former Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of the modern Turkish state, controlled the land of Israel and Jerusalem for four centuries until the end of the First World War. 

The surprising diplomatic travel announcement comes after Erdoğan met with Netanyahu in a first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.

The two leaders have had a strained relationship for more than a decade as Turkish-Israeli diplomatic ties went from bad to worse. In 2010, Turkish-Israeli relations deteriorated significantly after Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara were killed when IDF Special Forces boarded the ship as it was trying to break a blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

However, in 2022, Erdoğan signaled he wanted to improve Turkish-Israeli ties and in March of that year, the Turkish leader hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

The respective ambassadors of Turkey and Israel have returned to Ankara and Tel Aviv in a sign of normalized Turkish-Israeli relations. Erdoğan is reportedly interested in expanding Turkish-Israeli trade as part of Ankara's aim to boost the struggling Turkish economy.

In September 2022, Erdogan met with former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the Turkish Consulate in New York. It was the first top Turkish-Israeli meeting since 2008.

However, the Erdoğan-Netanyahu meeting on Wednesday at the UN General Assembly was perhaps even more significant because of the history of bad blood between the two leaders.

It now appears that both leaders are now pragmatically prepared to turn a new page in Turkish-Israeli relations. Erdoğan and Netanyahu reportedly discussed bilateral ties and ways to expand tourism and trade between Turkey and Israel. Erdoğan also expressed his nation's support for a potential normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel.

However, Erdoğan stressed the regional need to solve the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“In order for peace to ring in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be brought to an eventual solution. We will continue to support the Palestinian people and their struggle for legitimate rights under international law,” stated Erdoğan following his meeting with Netanyahu.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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