Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Monday to Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s signal of an interest in normalizing ties included a formal announcement of a three-way Israel- Greece-Cyprus summit in Nicosia next month.
Israel issued two messages in response to Erdogan’s comments.
The first was a statement from Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold, saying that Israel has “always aspired for stable relations with Turkey and is all the time considering ways to make this so.”
The second was an announcement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office of a government- to-government meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on January 27 in Jerusalem for talks on defense, energy, tourism and innovation cooperation. The following day, the announcement read, Netanyahu, Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will hold a three way meeting in Cyprus. Tsipras, who met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem last month, had already announced the meetings during his visit.
The Prime Minister’s Office rarely, if ever, makes a formal announcement of these types of meetings so far in advance. The timing seemed designed not only to reassure the Greeks and the Cypriots that any improvement in ties with Turkey will not come at their expense, but also to send a message to Turkey that Israel has options.
According to the Turkish daily Haberturk, Erdogan – who has made many virulantly anti-Israel statements in recent years – said that “this normalization process has a lot to offer to us, to Israel, to Palestine and also to the region. The region needs this.”
In the Turkish daily Hurriyet, which quoted the Haberturk report, Erdogan said there were still obstacles to mending ties with Israel that went into a tailspin following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which the IDF boarded the Turkish ship and clashed with activists attempting to break the naval blockade of Gaza. Nine Turkish citizens were killed during the raid.
At the time, Erdogan put three conditions on a normalization of ties between the countries: an Israeli apology, compensation, and lifting the blockade on Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized in 2013
, and there have been extensive negotiations and near agreement on a compensation package, but Israel has made clear it will not lift the maritime blockade of Gaza as a result of Turkish demands.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) told Israel Radio on Monday that Turkey is in a very difficult international situation because of its troop involvement in Iraq, its trade in Islamic State’s oil and its increasing tensions with Russia.
Liberman said Turkey isn’t the only one with normalization demands – Israel has some as well, including Ankara’s kicking out of the country the Hamas command stationed there that is responsible for attacks in Israel.
Liberman also said a compensation deal with Turkey for the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara should only be reached if there is a law passed in the Turkish parliament preventing the possibility of pressing charges against the IDF soldiers involved. Finally, he said, Israel must demand an end to Turkish incitement against Israel around the world.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader said a normalization of ties with Turkey would harm Israel’s flowering ties with Greece and Cyprus – Ankara’s historic rivals – and would also not be seen positively by Russia. Liberman said in a cost-benefit analysis, the price of normalizing ties with Turkey is not reasonable, especially considering the Turkish demand that Israel lift the blockade on Gaza.