Israel and Turkey will resume full diplomatic relations

Wednesday marked the return of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey after years of complex relations between the two Mediterranean states.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed diplomatic success as a “major asset for regional stability and extremely significant economic news for Israeli citizens.”

According to Lapid’s office, the diplomatic move would result in reassigning ambassadors and consuls general to the two countries.

The declaration comes after months of bilateral efforts to restore relations and reciprocal visits between top officials.

The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that the return of ambassadors “is crucial to enhance bilateral ties” while reiterating his commitment to “protect” Palestinian rights.

In May, Cavusoglu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in the past 15 years. During this journey, he met with the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.

During the historic visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara two months prior, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that their meeting marked “a turning point in our ties.”

After the 2008 Israeli military campaign in Gaza, bilateral relations began deteriorating.

In 2010, relations froze following the deaths of ten civilians as a result of an Israeli strike on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which was part of a flotilla attempting to breach a blockade by transporting aid into Gaza.

A brief rapprochement lasted from 2016 to 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador, and Israel’s was expelled over the massacre of Palestinians. During border protests between 2018 and 2019, more than 200 Gazans were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.

The economic troubles of Turkey

After Herzog assumed office in July 2021, reconciliation was openly initiated.

 The Israeli president stated that the total revival of ties “would stimulate increased commercial relations, mutual tourism, and goodwill between the peoples of Israel and Turkey.”

Despite the political difficulties of the past few years, trade has persisted, and Turkey remained a favorite tourism destination for Israelis.

Nonetheless, in June, Israel cautioned its citizens to return home, claiming an Iranian murder plot against its nationals in Istanbul.

Then, Lapid commended Ankara for its cooperation on the matter, and Israelis quickly resumed their vacations in Turkey.

Herzog was deployed to Cyprus and Greece before his trip to Ankara to avoid upsetting Israel’s regional allies with its plan to expand ties with Turkey.

According to Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research researcher at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, the improved contacts are likely due to Turkey’s financial woes.

“Turkey must enhance its economic status to attract foreign direct investment,” she told journalists, citing Ankara’s efforts to strengthen connections with other Middle Eastern nations.

“This normalization effort is primarily intended to improve Turkey’s diplomatic standing and attract foreign direct investment,” she continued.

‘Defend’ Palestinians

In the meantime, Turkey has emphasized that its normalization with Israel might assist the Palestinians.

We will continue to protect the rights of Palestinians, as we have always stated, Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

In addition to its links with the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership, Turkey has maintained contacts with the Gaza-ruling Hamas.

Basem Naim, a member of the political leadership of Hamas, stated that the organization “condemned” any moves to establish ties with Israel.

“We anticipate that all Arab, Muslim, and friendly countries would work toward isolating this occupation (Israel) and exert pressure on it to react to our legitimate Palestinian rights and aspirations,” he told AFP.

President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Efraim Inbar, stated that spectators should “have no illusions” that Israeli-Turkish relations will be as strong as they were in the 1990s.

“As long as Erdogan remains in power, there will be a degree of animosity between Turkey and Israel due to his Islamist ties. As an example, he will continue to support Hamas. He told AFP.

Since 2007, Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, and along with several Western nations, Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization.