Israel and Turkey have agreed to restore full diplomatic ties and announced the return of the ambassadors on Wednesday, after more than a decade of strained relations which recently began to thaw.
The renewal of relations comes despite Turkey’s condemnation of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip earlier this month as part of Israel Defense Forces' Operation Breaking Dawn.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to restore ties during a phone conversation, but details were officially finalized on Tuesday in a call between Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz spoke with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal.
Turkish officials have insisted that the warming ties with Israel do not mean that Turkey has abandoned its support and commitment to the Palestinians. Erdoğan told a gathering of ambassadors in Ankara recently that resuming full relations with the Jewish state will “allow us to help our Palestinian brothers.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu addressed the reappointing of ambassadors in a press conference on Wednesday saying, “we are not giving up on the Palestinian cause.”
“It is important for our messages to be conveyed directly through the ambassador (on the Palestinian issue),” Çavuşoğlu added.
Lapid said in a statement from his office that "the resumption of relations with Türkiye is an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel. We will continue to strengthen Israel's standing in the world."
“Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability,” read the statement. “This restoration of diplomatic relations is a continuation of the positive direction in the development of relations over the past year, since President Herzog’s diplomatic visit to Ankara, and the reciprocal visits of the foreign ministers to Jerusalem and Ankara.”
Herzog commended the move, calling it “an important development that we've been leading for the past year, which will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism, and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples.”
Herzog stressed that “good neighborly relations and the spirit of partnership in the Middle East are important for us all. Members of all faiths – Muslims, Jews, and Christians – can and must live together in peace."
Israel and Turkey have had official diplomatic relations since 1949. That relationship took a turn for the worse when Israel launched IDF Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2008. One memorable low point took place at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009, when Erdoğan famously confronted then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and walked off the stage in protest during a shared panel discussion.
A year later, the two countries withdrew their ambassadors following the Mavi Marmara incident, when a flotilla tried to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and a violent altercation erupted. Ten Turkish citizens were killed.
Turkey’s outreach toward Israel began earlier this year, through a series official meetings and bilateral steps which included a new aviation agreement and the opening of the Israeli trade mission in Istanbul. Lapid flew to Turkey at the end of June to thank local authorities for their efforts in foiling Iranian attacks against Israelis abroad.
The return of the Israeli ambassador to Ankara and the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv is considered a peak in the reconciliation process.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, Lapid and Erdoğan spoke on Wednesday and thanked one another for the recent developments.
The official Israeli correspondence used the new official name of Turkey – Türkiye – changed from The Republic of Turkey on May 26 in a request submitted to the United Nations.
"The prime minister and the president agreed that this latest development is an important additional level in the strengthening of relations that will lead to many achievements, especially in the fields of commerce and tourism," the statement said. "This will be reflected in the resumption of Israeli flights to Türkiye and the upcoming convening of the Joint Economic Commission in Israel in September."
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.