In a phone call last night between Turkish President Erdogan and Israeli Caretaker Prime Minister Lapid, the two agreed to fully restore the strained bi-lateral relations that have suffered in the last 20 years. After the phone call, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ashfiz and Turkish Deputy Foreign minister Sadat Onal agreed to appoint ambassadors to each other’s countries and re-open consulates. Israel has maintained two diplomatic missions in Turkey: its embassy is located in the capital city of Ankara, and its Consulate General is located in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. Ambassadors from each country have not been named yet as the particulars must still be worked out. Much of the diplomatic strain stems from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which as flared up several times.
Although it had voted against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Turkey recognized the State of Israel in 1949. Turkey’s first diplomatic mission in Israel was officially inaugurated on 07JAN50. However, the Turkish Legation was downgraded to the level of “Charge d’Affaires” after the Suez Canal Crisis on 26NOV56.
In 1967, Turkey joined the Arab condemnation of Israel after the Six-Day War and called for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories but abstained from voting in favor of a clause referring to Israel as an “aggressor state.”
Upon Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and enunciation of Jerusalem as its eternal capital, the representation was relegated to the level of “Second Secretary” on 30NOV80.
The positive atmosphere in the Israeli–Palestinian peace process in the early 1990s made it possible to raise the mutual diplomatic relations once again to Ambassadorial level and a Turkish Ambassador presented his credentials to President Chaim Herzog, on 23MAR92, in Tel Aviv.
In early 2006, the Israeli Foreign Ministry described its country’s relations with Turkey as “perfect.” However, the Turkish government’s condemnation of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict strained relations between the two countries. This was worsened on 31MAY10, when nine activists (eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American with dual citizenship) were killed and many more wounded by Israeli troops and seven Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara, part of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, a convoy of six ships carrying 663 people from 37 nations, including pro-Palestinian activists. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the incident could lead to irreparable consequences in bilateral relations. On 02SEP11, Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and suspended military co-operation after the UN released its report of the Mavi Marmara raid. A statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office said, “Israel hopes to find a way to overcome the dispute and will continue to work towards this goal”. Turkey demanded an apology which Israel refused to give.
In September 2011, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador after a UN report found that the blockade of Gaza was legal according to international law although excessive force was used when boarding the ship.
On 22MAR13, Netanyahu called Erdo?an and apologized for the Gaza Flotilla incident. In an official statement the Israeli government expressed regret over deterioration in bilateral relations and described the incident as unintentional, regretful and marred by “operational errors”. Erdogan later issued a statement accepting the apology on behalf of the Turkish people, however, diplomatic relations were still not restored.
A reconciliation agreement was announced on 27JUN2016 to end the six-year rift in the relation between both countries.
- The Turkish Parliament will pass a law canceling all appeals against Israeli soldiers involved in the killing of nine Turkish citizens during the Gaza flotilla raid and will also block any future claims.
- Commitment to stop terrorist or military activity against Israel on Turkish soil including funding and aid to such activities from Turkey. Palestinian movement Hamas will be allowed to operate on Turkish soil but only as a political movement.
- Turkey will accept to send all aid to the Gaza Strip through Israel and then from Israel to Gaza on land.
- Israel will allow Turkey to advance humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, such as building an hospital, power station and a desalination station, all subjected to Israeli security considerations
- Israel will give $20 million as compensation for the families of those who died and were injured in the raid. The money will be transferred through a humanitarian fund in Turkey. An Israel official said the money will be transferred only after the Turkish parliament will pass the law renouncing all appeals against Israeli soldiers involved in the incident.
- The two countries will start a process of renormalizing their relations, reappointing ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv and ending all sanctions between the two.
However, when the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, President Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu became embroiled in a Twitter controversy when both argued over Turkish support to Hamas. Both presidents took part if flamboyant rhetoric against each other personally, cooling relations and cancelling the 2017 diplomatic resolutions.
During the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis, Turkey accused Israel for the violence. The Turkish president called Israel a terror state and said that Turkey took initiatives to make international institutions to take action.
However, in 2022, in a sign of warming ties, Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey to meet with Erdogan in March 2022, reportedly part of a broader coalition to counter the Iranian threat, which both countries have denounced. This move to re-establish the diplomatic relations follows a slew of Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia have moved to recognize Israel in order to counter Iranian influence.