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official reinstatement of full diplomatic relations between türkiye and israel: a new era of cooperation

Official Reinstatement of Full Diplomatic Relations between Türkiye and Israel: A New Era of Cooperation

Author: Josephine Freund

Aug 24, 2022

Image source: timesofisrael.com

Türkiye and Israel have agreed to resume full diplomatic relations. The diplomatic move announced August 17 includes reinstating ambassadors and consuls-general to both countries.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, following the announcement, explained that “renewing relations with [Türkiye] is an important asset for regional stability and important economic news for the citizens of Israel.” Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that renewing relations will “allow us to help our Palestinian brothers.” Meanwhile, Türkiye’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, remarked, “Such a positive step came from Israel as a result of these efforts, and as [Türkiye], we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv.”

Türkiye’s and Israel’s previous deterioration of diplomatic relations began in 2008 during Operation Cast Lead and worsened during the Mavi Marmara Raid in 2010 during which Israeli Defense (IDF) commandos boarded a Turkish flotilla attempting to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip that led to  combat. The fighting resulted in the deaths of nine activists associated with Erdoğan. Then, in 2018 relations further worsened following the United States opening its embassy in Jerusalem, when Türkiye recalled its ambassador in reaction to Palestinian casualties related to protesting this move.

The announcement of renewed diplomatic relations has been a year in the making, following an uptick in positive interactions between both Israeli and Turkish governments. In March, when Israel’s President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara, Herzog stated, “Improving relations will contribute to deepening the relations between the two nations, and to increasing economic, trade and tourism connections, and regional stability.”  During this visit, Erdoğan expressed Türkiyes desire for peaceful coexistence in the region. He also emphasized his belief in a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The visit to Ankara certainly marked a thawing of relations between the two countries.  Following Herzog’s visit, Türkiye's Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, embarked on an official visit to Israel. This was the first official visit from a Turkish Foreign Minister in 15 years. During this visit, Çavuşoğlu visited Ramallah, al Aqsa Mosque, and met with Mahmud Abbas before visiting Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and meeting with Yair Lapid.

The official visits preceding the official reinstatement of full diplomatic relations resulted in productive joint endeavors. Türkiye and Israel signed an agreement in which Israeli airlines would be permitted to fly to Türkiye, and Israel announced that it would reopen its trade office in Istanbul.

Türkiye and Israel also fortified their warming diplomatic relationship through cooperating in security-related undertakings. The two nations’ intelligence agencies were able to join forces in being able to foil an attempted terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Istanbul. Turkish authorities arrested several Iranian individuals linked to the planned attack. Lapid lauded Türkiye’s security and intelligence cooperation and also condemned the attempted attack as an Iranian breach of Turkish sovereignty.

Besides security, Türkiye and Israel have demonstrated the potential for fruitful cooperation in the energy sector. During the March visit to Ankara, a key topic of discussion was the prospect of establishing an underwater gas pipeline linking Türkiye and Israel’s Leviathan Field. Endeavors such as this possible pipeline, which could transport natural gas to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean, are especially timely during Europe’s efforts to reduce its reliance on Russian gas.

Even with the construction of such a pipeline, natural gas from Israel would not necessarily go directly to Europe. But still, it would still facilitate alternatives to Russia for Europe: In supplementing Türkiye’s gas supply, it would make way for further utilization of gas from Azerbaijan by Europe too. Israel’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan, George Deek credited Azerbaijan’s role in facilitating this renewed relationship: “Baku played an important role, making a lot of efforts to restore closer relations between Israel and [Türkiye]. For which we are sincerely grateful to the leadership of Azerbaijan, with whose participation another step has been taken in the regional process of Israel's rapprochement with Arab and Muslim countries.”

Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, the managing director at the European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) emphasized that Türkiye and Israel are both eager to bolster development of Eastern Mediterranean energy in order to ensure that the world does not look to Iran to supply their alternative energy needs.

The official re-establishing of diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Israel has emerged following numerous other overtures of peace between Israel and other Muslim nations that began with the Abraham Accords two years ago. Besides the latest developments with Türkiye, Israel has gone on to establish normalized relations with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. These newfound diplomatic relations have also emerged amid increased concern around Iranian aggression and nuclear capability.

The revived relations between Türkiye and Israel have already proven to hold promise in the fields of security and energy. Undoubtedly, further cooperation will lead to gains in both countries’ tourism sectors and political and economic collaboration. Finally, we would note that renewed relations will certainly result in positive effects for the region as a whole.

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