New horizons for Israeli-Turkish diplomatic relations! Four months after severing of diplomatic relations following the violent protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, in which 61 protesters including members of Hamas were killed, Israel and Turkey are now conducting discreet talks in order to normalise their fractured relations and return their respective ambassadors to their posts after the Jewish holiday season.
Relations between Turkey and Israel haven’t been warm in recent years, but they definitely went in a tailspin in May when Turkey recalled its ambassador and ordered the Israeli ambassador Eitan Na’eh to leave the country, following the May violent protests along the Gaza border.
Since then, a war of words has erupted between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an acrid critic of Israel who placed the blame for the deaths straight on the country, calling it a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.” At that time, Israel responded to the move by ordering the Turkish Consul in Jerusalem, Hüsnü Gürcan Türkoğlu, to leave the country until further notice.
According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has published an internal tender for the position of Israeli ambassador to Turkey, to be filled in the summer of 2019. The two countries are now conducting backchannel talks in order to re-establish the all-but-severed diplomatic ties between the two nations. If the latest bear fruits, they expect to return their respective ambassadors back to their posts.
The evolution of the Israeli-Turkish relationship
Israel has maintained strong diplomatic relations with Turkey since 1949, when the country recognised the Jewish State. In the 1990s, Israeli-Turkish ties were deepening in all spheres, following in particular the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 and the 1993 Oslo Agreement, which removed constraints on Turkey’s ability to establish and improve formal diplomatic ties with Israel.
This paved the way for strategic alliances between the two countries throughout the 1990s and until the end of the golden age in 2010, when the Mavi Marmara incident and its aftermath marked the end of Israel-Turkey relations. In 2016, the two countries made end to a five-year estrangement and reconstituted a crucial regional alliance.
A number of factors may today be cited as leading to Turkey’s interest to restore relations with Israel such as the winding down of the Syrian civil war and a common concern about the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
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