Israel and Turkey restore ties after six-year rift

June 28, 2016 Agencies
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Israel and Turkey have agreed to normalise ties after a six-year rift in their diplomatic relationship.

“Israel and Turkey are two major regional powers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The disconnect between us prevented necessary cooperation.”

Turkish-Israeli relations broke down after the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish militants were killed in clashes after they attacked Israeli commandos who boarded a ship that was trying to breach the blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The Mavi Marmara, the vessel involved in the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, which led to the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Mavi Marmara, the vessel involved in the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, which led to the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

According to reports citing Israeli and Turkish officials, the normalization deal includes $20 million in Israeli compensation for the families of those killed in the flotilla incident, an end to all Turkish legal claims against the Israeli military over the interception, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors. Turkey will be allowed to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to invest in infrastructure there, including the construction of residential buildings and a hospital.

“Israel and Turkey are natural allies in many ways,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “They are anchors of the region. They share common threats and concerns. They have overlapping energy interests. They have complementary economies. Accordingly, cooperation is a far better alternative than conflict.”

While Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the maritime blockade on Gaza was “largely lifted” as part of the agreement, Israel is disputing that assertion.

“This is a supreme security interest of ours,” Netanyahu said regarding the blockade. “I was not willing to compromise on it. This interest is essential to prevent the force-buildup by Hamas and it remains as has been and is.”

Reports indicate that Turkey’s ties to Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, were not addressed in the agreement.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), welcomed the agreement between Turkey and Israel to re-establish full diplomatic relations, but warned of a bumpy road ahead. “This deal is important. The normalisation of relations between Ankara and Jerusalem will hopefully lead to more trade, tourism and much-needed cooperation for the stabilization of the Middle East. Turkey is a key player in the region; its engagement for peace is important,” Lauder declared.

He urged a “region-wide joint effort” to stop the bloodshed in Syria and to fight jihadist terrorism, which he called “the major threat to all countries.” For Lauder, “good Israeli-Turkish relations are a pre-requisite for making progress on that front.”

However, the WJC president, who over the past six years worked behind the scenes to bring the two sides closer to an agreement and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan several times, cautioned that frictions between the two sides would not dissipate overnight. “What is needed now are further confidence-building measures in order to heal the wounds,” said Lauder. He offered the support of the international Jewish community in the reconciliation process.

Turkish-Israeli relations were suspended in 2010 after the Israel Defense Forces stormed the ship Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’, which was trying to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the IDF raid.

The two erstwhile allies on Monday announced an agreement to re-establish full diplomatic relations.

JNS.org and J-Wire staff

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