Restoring Israel-Turkey Relations
Significance of President Herzog’s Visit:
- On March 9, 2022, Israeli President Herzog visited Turkey, becoming the first Israeli leader to visit in fourteen years. In the two-day visit, Herzog met with Turkish President Erdogan and Jewish community leaders.
- Prior to arriving in Turkey, Herzog stated the two leaders “shall try to restart our relations and build them in a measured and cautious manner, and with mutual respect between our states.”
- The visit came at an important moment for Erdogan, as his popularity is diminishing. Analysts argue that Turkey’s foreign policy has left the country isolated. Therefore, Turkish officials have made attempts in recent months to rebuild relations with other regional powers in the Middle East.
- Both Israel and Turkey have worked to assist in mediation amid the Russian invasion, and this visit continued upon these efforts.
- On Thursday, March 10, Erdogan hosted Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers Dmytro Kuleba and Sergey Lavrov.
- Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Nafatali Bennet has held separate phone calls with Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Zelensky.
- Natural gas is another topic of interest between Israel and Turkey. In January 2022, Erdogan announced that he was open to using Israeli natural gas and willing to allow Israel to transport the gas to Europe via Turkey.
What Led to the Deteriorating Relationship?
- The central explanation for the breakdown of Turkish-Israeli relations is arguably the Palestine conflict. The 2008 Israeli military against Hamas in Gaza sparked the deterioration of the relationship. Tensions rose the following year at the World Economic Forum when President Erdogan declared that “When it comes to killing, you [former Israeli President Peres] know well how to kill.”
- Relations worsened in 2010 when Israeli Defense Forces raided the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla transporting humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Nine Turkish civilians died during the raid.
- Israel accused the ship of attempting to breach the naval blockade of Gaza.
- Following this incident, President Erdogan expelled the Israeli ambassador and recalled the Turkish ambassador to Israel.
- In 2013, at the urging of President Obama, Israel apologized to Turkey and opened the possibility of a normalization agreement. The agreement failed to be effective due to the killing of 60 Palestinian protestors in 2018.