Israel and Turkey flags.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel and Turkey are “very close” to a rapprochement agreement, Yaakov Nagel, acting head of the National Security Council, said on Tuesday, echoing equally upbeat assessments coming out of Ankara.
Nagel’s comments in an Israel Radio interview come just before Israeli and Turkish teams are scheduled to meet on Sunday in an undisclosed European location, to put final touches on an accord that has been in the works for months to reestablish relations.
The Israeli team will be headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy, Joseph Ciechanover, and the Turkish delegation will be led Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, a former ambassador to Israel.
Until recently, only the Turkish side has been talking about an imminent deal, but senior Israeli officials have recently sounded optimistic as well. National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said at the beginning of the month that a deal was just around the corner, and that 90 percent of the issues had been resolved.
The once-strong ties between the two countries frayed steadily following the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002, and then went into a tailspin in 2010 when nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, as they attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Turkey recalled its ambassador, ousted Israel’s, and demanded that Israel apologize for the incident, pay compensation to the families of the victims, and lift the blockade of Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an apology of sorts in 2013, at the urging of US President Barack Obama. A compensation package for the families of the victims – on condition that all legal proceedings against IDF soldiers would be dropped – has long been agreed upon.
Israel, however, is unwilling to lift the blockade of Gaza, though it has expressed a willingness to allow Turkish humanitarian goods into Gaza through the Ashdod port, and let the Turks build a power plant and a desalination plant in Gaza.
Israel, in turn, has demanded that Turkey oust Hamas, which has established a command center in Istanbul.
According to various media reports, Turkey will prevent Hamas from acting against Israel from its territory.
According to the Hurriyet Daily News website, the rapprochement accord will be signed next month by Sinirlioglu and Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, who is his counterpart.
By the end of the month, the ties will be normalized with the reappointment of ambassadors.