Israel to assess Erdogan’s seriousness regarding normalization of relations

After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly said last week that he wanted to improve relations with Israel, the Israeli government decided to launch a low-profile outreach to Turkey to determine whether his intentions were sincere. , two Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Relations between Israel and Turkey, once a close ally, began to deteriorate in 2008 and are in a state of constant crisis. In 2018, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel after unrest around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Send the news: In recent weeks, Turkey has sent ambiguous signals to Israel, either through the press or through third parties such as the President of Azerbaijan, as first reported by Axios.

  • Last Friday, Erdogan told reporters that Turkey maintains relations with Israel through intelligence channels and stressed: “We have some problems with the people at the top.”
  • The Turkish president said his country could not accept Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, but added: “Our heart desires that we can move our relations with them to a better point.”
  • The Israeli government is not sure how to read Turkey’s signals, but Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has decided to hold a meeting on the issue following Erdogan’s remarks.
  • The meeting, which took place at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, was also attended by senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Defense and the Mossad.

What’s next: Israeli officials briefed on the meeting informed me that Ashkenazi had said they needed to send “silent feelings” to the Turks via various channels to determine how serious Erdogan is in improving relations with Israel.

  • Officials said Israel would not make a formal, public response to Erdogan’s remarks and would try to involve the Turkish government in privacy.
  • The spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

The whole picture: Israeli officials say Erdogan’s new tone is directly linked to the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

  • Erdogan is worried that Biden – who called the Turkish leader “an autocrat” – will take a hard line on Turkey, and that warming relations with Israel could score points for him with the new US president.
  • Israeli officials say they will be very careful given their suspicion of Erdogan’s true intentions. In any case, Israel will not harm its relations with Greece and Cyprus in order to restore relations with Turkey.

Flash back: Relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated since the 2008 Gaza war. Contacts were almost completely frozen after the ‘Gaza Flotilla incident’ in 2010, in which Israeli commandos attacked activists who wanted to violate an Israeli blockade to provide aid to Gaza.

  • President Barack Obama, at the time, facilitated a trilateral call with Netanyahu and Erdogan in 2013 to try to advance a reconciliation agreement.
  • These talks continued until 2016, and the final agreement unraveled two years later when a new crisis arose over the Temple Mount.