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Turkish president tells Jewish leaders he will visit Israel

Relations between Israel, Turkey continue to improve with Israel’s newly appointed ambassador

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the nation in Istanbul, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2020. (Photo: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in recent days that he plans to visit Israel, a potential indication that he is willing to work on repairing the long-troubled relationship between Turkey and Israel.

Last March, Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey, and this week Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid met Erdoğan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the first time the top leaders of these two nations met since 2008. 

Along with Erdoğan’s announcement that he aims to visit the Jewish state, he told an audience of American Jewish leaders that anti-Semitism is a “crime against humanity.”

On Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry approved the appointment of Irit Lillian as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey. Lillian served as chargé d’affaires for the last two years at Israel’s embassy in Ankara. She was the Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria from 2015 to 2019.

Turkey expelled Israel’s previous envoy to the country, Eitan Na’eh, in May 2018 in response to deadly clashes along the Gaza border. The new ambassador said this August that restoration of the Israel-Turkey relationship has begun. 

“Right now, we are on a path of repairing relations, and if we say we are aiming to be good regional partners, that would be very accurate because this is the goal that is going far beyond the nomination of ambassadors or any other symbolic importance,” Lillian said in an interview on Israel’s i24 News.

“We should work together for more security and stability in the region, knowing that there are stumbling blocks, but nevertheless, this joint effort is in the interest of both the Turks and the Israelis,” she said.

Last month, Turkey and Israel announced they are planning to restore full diplomatic ties; these were severed in 2010 when Israeli security forces boarded a Turkish ship that was endeavoring to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza; the Israelis were attacked in the first moments of boarding. 

Turkey has sought to improve its ties with the West as the Russian war with Ukraine drags on. Erdoğan also reportedly wants to assure Turkey’s role in exploration for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Until now, Israel and Greece have led efforts in this area.

At the same time, Israel wants to build on the 2020 Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and the Arab countries of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and, later, Morocco. Israel knows that enhanced relations with Turkey could aid it in its goal to add other Arab- and Muslim-majority countries to the accords.

Furthermore, Turkey has proven to be a valued intermediary in Israel’s ongoing efforts to reduce tensions along its border with Gaza, as Turkey maintains ties with Hamas, the militant terrorist group that controls the Strip.

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

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