Turkey assures that it is not abandoning the Palestinian cause. Israel announced on Wednesday August 17 the full restoration of diplomatic relations with Ankara and the return of ambassadors to the two countries. “It was decided to raise the level of ties between the two countries to full diplomatic relations and to return the ambassadors and consuls general to the two countries”Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu assured that Turkey “would not abandon the Palestinian cause” and will continue to “to defend the rights of the Palestinians, of Jerusalem and of Gaza”.
The announcement was not well received by Hamas, however. “Any normalization with the occupier [israélien] is a legitimization of his presence on our lands”reacted the movement. “We expect all Arab, Muslim and friendly countries to isolate the occupier and put pressure on it to respond to the legitimate rights of the Palestinians”Bassem Naïm, a member of the armed Palestinian movement in Gaza, told Agence France-Presse.
Twelve years of diplomatic cold
Bilateral relations between Israel and Ankara were strained in 2010 with the case of Mavi Marmara, when Israeli forces launched a deadly assault on this Turkish ship trying to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave under Israeli blockade. After this event, Ankara had taken a series of measures: expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, suspension of bilateral military agreementsproceedings before the International Court of Justice to challenge the blockade of Gaza.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, has often criticized Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. In May 2018, after the death of around fifty Palestinians killed by the Israeli army in Gaza, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and fired the Israeli ambassador. Israel retaliated by sending the Turkish consul general back to Jerusalem.
Common strategic interests
Despite the tensions, Israelis and Turks maintained channels of discussion, sometimes secret, to lay the foundations for a normalization of their relations. The two countries had also opened a new era in their relations in recent months, marked in particular by the historic visit of the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, to Ankara in March 2022. The head of Turkish diplomacy, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, had carried out at the at the end of May a visit to Jerusalem within the framework of this diplomatic thaw.
Already in November 2021, Mr. Erdogan spoke on the phone with his Israeli counterpart and former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – the first such talks since 2013 – on the occasion of the release and return to their country. of an Israeli tourist couple detained in Turkey for espionage.
The announcement of the resumption of full relations also comes at a time when Turkey faces high inflation and collapsing currency. In January 2022, Erdogan announced that his country was ready to cooperate with Israel on an eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline project, which he had once opposed.
The issue of energy cooperation between the two countries, against the backdrop of discoveries of deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, has become more pressing as several European countries seek to reduce their dependence on Russian gas.