Israeli officials hosted eight journalists from Turkey last week for an educational tour aimed at improving understanding between the two nations.
The visit, reported by the Hebrew website Ynet, was an initiative of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara and the Israeli Consulate General in Istanbul.
The members of the delegation visited the al-Aqsa Mosque, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Knesset, where they met with the chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Knesset Member Ram Ben Barak.
“I was in Gaza three times before, as well as in Jerusalem and Ramallah, but this is the first time I saw the real Israel,” one reporter told the news outlet. “I now see the other side and understand things a little differently.”
The Turkish reporters were briefed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on relations between the two countries, the Abraham Accords and efforts to counter Iran in the region. In addition, they toured Israel’s northern and southern borders.
The Turkish delegation’s visit to Israel is the latest example of diplomatic efforts to strengthen relations that have been tense since the late 2000s.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog was welcomed in Ankara by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early March. It was the first official visit by an Israeli leader to Turkey since 2008.
At the time, Erdoğan said that the two governments wanted to “accelerate and revive the political dialogue between the two countries, based on shared interest and respect to mutual delicacies.”
“Strengthening and developing the ties between Turkey and Israel is highly valuable to our country and to peace in the region,” he said.
Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Israel.
Many analysts believe that Turkey has turned on the charm because of its current weak economy and Ankara's pragmatic realization that improved ties with the Jewish state are very much in Turkey’s best interests.
For example, Ankara hopes to attract more Israeli tourists. However, in recent weeks there have been several Iranian terror attempts targeting Israelis visiting the country, especially in Istanbul. Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau raised the travel warning for Istanbul to Level 4 – the highest level – last week.
The increased threat against Israelis abroad comes after a series of assassinations of Iranian officials that were attributed to Israel.
Ynet reported that the Israeli Foreign Ministry will also be hosting a delegation of Arab journalists based in Europe who write largely for media outlets in the Middle East.
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.