Turkey seeks to normalize relations with Israel, says will work for two-state solution for Palestine  

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu became the first high level diplomat to visit Israel in the last 15 years since relations between both the countries deteriorated over the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008 that killed over 1,400 Palestinians

May 27, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Turkey-Israel relations
(Photo: AA)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on May 24 and 25 in order to re-energize diplomatic relations between the Israel and Turkey. It was the first top level diplomatic visit by a Turkish minister to Israel in the last 15 years. 

Addressing a press conference after their meeting, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced the establishment of a “joint economic commission” and a new civil aviation agreement between the two countries. He also expressed hope that both countries will re-establish full diplomatic relations soon.  

Turkey, one of the few countries in the region which had recognized Israel at the time of its formation, gradually scaled down its relations since 2008. The Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-09 in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed was the immediate reason for the deterioration in their relations.  

In 2010, the killing of 10 Turkish citizens by Israeli forces in a raid on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla that was trying to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza imposed also added to the growing coldness in diplomatic relations, with Turkey withdrawing its ambassador.  

Diplomatic relations further deteriorated after peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis broke down completely in 2014.   

There was an attempt to reconcile the relationship between both the countries in 2016, however, they stopped exchanging ambassadors again in 2018 following the Israeli killing of dozens of Palestinians during demonstrations against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the great march of return protests.   

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood which actively supports Hamas in Gaza. 

Part of larger regional rapprochement

Cavusoglu arrived in Israel on Tuesday and first met his Palestinian Authority (PA) counterpart Riad al-Maliki and President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. According to a report in Wafa news agency, Abbas apprised Cavusoglu about Israel’s violent suppression of Palestinians, home demolitions, forced expulsions and apartheid practices inside the occupied territories.   

Cavusoglu later visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem which has witnessed repeated attacks from Israeli security forces and settlers. During his visit to the occupied territories, Cavusoglu claimed that normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel will “have positive impact on the peaceful resolution of” the Palestinian conflict. 

During the joint press conference on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Israel are looking forward to opening regular dialogue at the top levels and strengthen their economic ties. He also reiterated his country’s support for a “two-state solution” and underlined that the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque must be maintained. 

Erdogan’s government has undertaken a strategy of reviving its relations with regional players recently. Before Israel, Turkey signed fresh deals with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with whom it had faced diplomatic issues earlier. Commentators have argued that the change in Turkey’s hardline approach on the issue of Palestine and its support to the Muslim Brotherhood is a result of an ongoing economic crisis in the country and the need for international investments.  

Turkey’s economy is going through a critical phase with unprecedented high inflation (61%) and historic fall in the value of its currency (nearly 50%). In order to re-energize the economy, the Erdogan government is seeking to increase trade and investments in the region and working on rapprochement with countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Israel.   

The current reconciliation between Israel and Turkey began with Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey in March this year.