Israel and Turkey on Wednesday announced the resumption of full diplomatic relations after years of tense relations between the Mediterranean countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid praised the diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset to regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel”.
Lapid’s office said the diplomatic development will see ambassadors and consuls general be relocated to the two countries.
The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to restore ties, with two-way visits by top officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors is “important to improve bilateral ties”.
But he warned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up the Palestinian cause”.
In May, Cavusoglu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years, on a trip that also saw the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.
During a historic visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara two months earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said their meeting was “a turning point in our relations”.
Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008 after an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli attack on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla that attempted to break a blockade in 2010 by transporting aid to Gaza.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 to 2018, when ambassadors were again withdrawn over the killing of Palestinians. More than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests from 2018 to 2019.
‘Defend’ Palestinian rights
After Herzog took office in July 2021, the reconciliation began publicly.
The Israeli president said on Wednesday that the complete renewal of ties “will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples”.
Despite diplomatic differences in recent years, trade continued and Turkey remained a popular destination for Israeli tourists.
However, Israel warned its citizens to return home in June, citing an Iranian assassination plot against its nationals in Istanbul.
Lapid then thanked Ankara for its cooperation on the matter and the Israelis quickly resumed their Turkish vacation.
Israel has been wary of upsetting regional allies over its decision to strengthen ties with Turkey, sending Herzog to Cyprus and Greece for his trip to Ankara.
Turkey, meanwhile, has emphasized that its normalization with Israel could bring benefits to the Palestinians.
“As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of the Palestinians,” Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
In addition to its relations with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, Turkey has also maintained ties with the Islamist group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip.
Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said observers should be “under no illusion” that bilateral ties will be as good as they were in the 1990s.
“As long as Erdogan is in power, there will be a certain amount of animosity from Turkey towards Israel because of his Islamic connection. He will continue to support Hamas, for example,” he told AFP.
Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza’s 2.3 million residents since 2007 and — along with many Western countries — designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.
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