On Wednesday, Israel and Turkey announced their official normalization of ties and full restoration of diplomatic relations, returning their ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara. This comes after several years of tension and a gradual reconciliation over the past several months.
“It was decided to once again upgrade the level of the relations between the two countries to that of full diplomatic ties and to return ambassadors and consuls general from the two countries,” a statement from the office of interim Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said.
“Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability,” the statement added. The move to normalize ties was also praised by Israeli President Isaac Herzog as “an important development” that will “encourage greater economic relations” between Israel and Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed the decision and stated: “Appointment of ambassadors was one of the steps for the normalization of ties. Such a positive step came from Israel as a result of these efforts, and as Turkey, we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv.”
The Turkish Foreign Minister clarified, however, that the restoration of ties does not mean that his country will abandon what he referred to as its “support” for the Palestinian people.
“We are not giving up on the Palestinian cause… It is important for our messages to be conveyed directly through the ambassador (on the Palestinian issue),” Cavusoglu asserted.
The strain in relations initially began in 2010, when a Turkish-sponsored fleet of humanitarian ships bound for Gaza was attacked in the Mediterranean by the Israeli navy, resulting in the deaths of six Turkish activists.
In 2018, both governments expelled each other’s ambassadors, with Turkey criticizing Tel Aviv for its abuse of Palestinian human rights. A year later, the two states scaled back their economic cooperation. By 2021, however, economic relations had rekindled, as bilateral trade between Israel and Turkey reached around $7.7 billion.
Since then, Tel Aviv and Ankara have been involved in efforts to reach a full normalization of ties. On July 7, the two states signed their first aviation agreement since 1951. On March 9, Herzog visited Turkey, marking the first visit by an Israeli leader to the country since 2008.
During his visit to Tel Aviv on 25 May, Cavusoglu said that a normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel would have a “positive impact” that would result in a “peaceful” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite Turkey’s purported support for the Palestinians, however, Ankara has been deporting members of the Hamas resistance group from the country at Tel Aviv’s request.