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February 18, 2022 12:30 pm
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Turkey Can Wait

avatar by Yoni Ben Menachem / JNS.org

Opinion

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing the congress of the ruling Islamist AKP Party in March 2021. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas.

JNS.org – Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Feb. 6, and wished him health and a full recovery from COVID-19. The two discussed the possibility of meeting soon. While further details were not disclosed, Erdogan told Turkish media that Herzog would visit Ankara in March. Erdogan also said the two countries would soon discuss transporting Israeli gas to Europe through Turkey.

After the Israeli tourist couple Mordi and Natalie Oknin—arrested on a false charge of being Mossad agents—were freed from a Turkish prison, it was clear that Erdogan would exact a price from Israel for their release, at a time convenient to him.

Erdogan has declared a new foreign policy and has begun to repair his regional relations with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and now Israel.

Over the past decade, Israel’s relations with Turkey have been volatile and marked by diplomatic crises. In 2010, Israel thwarted a Turkish attempt to breach the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, sending navy commandos to commandeer the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara at sea. In 2016, an agreement was reached to normalize the two states’ relations. However, in 2018, after the death of Palestinians rioting at the Gaza border, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador from Ankara and recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

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Erdogan has now decided that the time is right to improve relations and make it pay up for the Oknins’ release. The Turkish foreign minister called his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid to inquire about his health after Lapid’s own infection with COVID-19. Erdogan himself announced that Herzog would visit Turkey and even called him to offer his condolences following the passing of his mother.

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