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Israeli president may make official trip to Turkey, would be first presidential visit in 15 years

Is this a sign of improved Turkish-Israeli ties?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde) and Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed on Tuesday that Israeli President Isaac Herzog could potentially visit Turkey in the near future. 

If Herzog does indeed travel to Turkey, it would be the first Israeli presidential visit there since the late Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2007. 

Turkey and Israel were once regional allies and maintained close military cooperation. However, relations deteriorated sharply under Erdogan’s tenure and Turkey increasingly became a vitriolic critic of Israel, embracing Hamas – an Islamist terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. 

However, recent reconciliatory language from the Turkish president could be signaling the beginning of improved relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. 

Erdogan confirmed that his office was in touch with the Israeli president and hinted that he could also potentially meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. 

“We are now holding talks with President Herzog. He could visit us in Turkey. Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett also has a positive approach,” Erdogan stated

Erdogan stressed that pragmatic cooperation would be mutually beneficial for Turkey and Israel. 

“As Turkey, we will do our best to cooperate on a win-win basis. As politicians, we should not be there to fight but to live in peace,” said Erdogan. 

A senior Israeli source confirmed that Herzog is indeed considering a visit to Turkey but a final decision is yet to be made. The Israeli side stressed that a potential presidential visit to Turkey would not come at the expense of the Jewish state’s close relations with Greece and Cyprus, which have strained relations with Turkey. 

A struggling Turkish economy and strained relations with the West, have pushed the Turkish leader to mend diplomatic relations with key regional players such as Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Erdogan is especially interested in natural gas cooperation with Israel and has been jealously eyeing the Greek-Israeli-Cypriot plans to transport natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to the European Union member-states. 

“We previously had some progress in transport of Israeli gas to Europe through Turkey,” Erdogan said.

The former U.S. Trump administration supported the eastern Mediterranean Greek-Israeli gas pipeline plan. However, the Biden administration recently informed Greece and Israel that it no longer supports the pipeline plan. 

Erdogan wants to revive the gas pipeline plan by positioning Turkey as the crucial middleman between Israel and the European Union. 

“If [Israeli gas] would be brought to Europe, it could only be done through Turkey. Is there any hope for now? We can sit and talk about the conditions,” declared Erdogan. 

In another signal that Istanbul is interested in mending its strained relations with Israel, Turkey released an Israeli couple who were arrested on pretenses of espionage while on vacation there. After intense diplomatic efforts, Erdogan agreed to release the two. 

During a subsequent phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Erdogan stressed the importance of Turkish-Israeli ties for the security and stability of the Middle East region.

Herzog also thanked Erdogan and “welcomed the desire for Turkey and Israel to hold a comprehensive dialogue on bilateral and regional issues related to regional peace.” 

Last week, Erdogan called Herzog to offer his condolences for the passing of the Israeli president’s mother Aura Herzog, the widow of the late Israeli President Chaim Herzog. 

“I believe that you gave her pride in your service to the citizens of Israel,” Erdogan was quoted telling Herzog.

While Erdogan has made no inclination to abandon his Islamist ideology, he seems to understand that mending ties with Israel is in Turkey’s national interest.

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

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