Leading Israeli diplomat backs reconciliation with Turkey

Director of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold says he believes Israel and Turkey will be back on amicable terms soon

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold seen giving a speech

The director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, told reporters on Thursday that he is “hopeful that in the not too distant future Israel and Turkey will find a way to reestablish their relationship.”

Gold, who held secret talks in Rome in June with his Turkish counterpart, Feridun Sinirlioglu, added that “The strategic environment around Turkey is much more complicated than it was two or three years ago, with the rise of ISIS as a challenge to Turkey, not just Syria, and the growth of Iranian power, which is not just a problem for Israel, but for Turkey as well.”

When asked why the two countries have not come to terms following the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010 that led to a rupture in their ties, Gold responded, “Everything takes time.”

Gold - who will also meet with a delegation of senior Turkish journalists next week - said, “I think countries ultimately operate according to their interests, and I think Turkey and Israel do have important converging interests,” when asked whether Israel could reestablish relations with Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the head of the country.

Yasin Aktay, a top adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was quoted in a Gaza-based newspaper last week as saying that an Israeli-Turkish reconciliation is in the offing.

In that interview, Aktay also said a long-term Hamas-Israel deal is in the making, one of a number of similar claims that have appeared in recent days saying that Israel and Hamas are at the threshold of a 10-year truce mediated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

According to a report in a media outlet this week, senior Hamas figure Moussa Abu Marzouk has already met with some of the factions in the Lebanese capital regarding the possibility of the extended ceasefire.

Gold, however, denied the reports, saying Hamas “remains unreformed” and Israel “is not negotiating with it.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel have worsened since 2009, when then prime minister - now president - Recep Tayyip Erdogan chided Israel’s then president Shimon Peres at a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, over Israel’s actions in Gaza.

According to data from United Nations and Palestinian officials, the Israeli offensive in Gaza last year killed at least 2,160 Palestinians - mostly civilians, including dozens of children - and injured some 11,000 others.

The Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, one of the six civilian ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, further worsened relations.

Nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara in a bungled raid and a 10th activist later died from heavy wounds.

The flotilla was set up by an international coalition called the Free Gaza Movement, which included the the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and the Humantarian Relief Foundation (IHH). Its aim was to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which was strengthened in 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza.

The maritime raid drew widespread condemnation internationally, and the Turkish government led by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) demanded an official apology and compensation for the relatives of the Mavi Marmara victims.

The Israeli government, following a telephone conversation between Netanyahu and Erdogan, apologised to Turkey in March 2013. The Israelis also offered $20 million in compensation for the attack and eased their blockade on the Gaza Strip following the incident.

Relations between the two countries seemed to be warming up in February 2014, with talk of a reconciliation agreement involving the payment of reparations to the victims of the Mavi Marmara incident.

In other news, this week more than half a million people signed a petition calling on world leader to push for an to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza, one day after it was started on Wednesday. The petition, published on the political activism website Avaaz, calls for an end to  the Israeli blockade in order to enable the reconstruction of Gaza “Palestinian political parties have failed to reconcile and prioritize reconstruction, and Egypt’s closure of its border has further limited supplies entering Gaza and the principal obstacle to reconstruction is Israel’s blockade.”

TRTWorld and agencies