Israeli and Turkish flags [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel and Turkey are very close to concluding their rapprochement agreement, Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant said on Thursday, the most senior Israeli official to date to speak publicly in such upbeat tones about an imminent reconciliation.
By contrast, senior Turkish officials have been saying for months that an agreement was just around the corner. Their predictions, however, never materialized, and the accord has remained elusive.
Turkish and Israeli officials are expected to meet again next week in Europe in an effort to conclude the accord. Ties between the two countries broke down following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, during which nine Turks were killed after attacking Israel Navy commandos who boarded the ship to keep it from breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
“This agreement is significant for Israel from a national security perspective, and its economic significance is far reaching and has ramifications in the spheres of tourism and energy, and has the potential of influencing the construction sector as well,” Galant said at a Builder’s Association conference in Eilat.
According to Galant, “Israel has many enemies, and we don’t need any more.”
Saying that Turkey was a central Muslim country in the region on par with Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Galant said that its strategic importance was great and that the time has come to normalize relations with Ankara.
“The agreements between us and the Turks are ready in almost all aspects,” he said. “Israel must act to help the Western world keep Turkey on the right side. We do not want the formation of another Iran in the region; this is a joint interest between us, the United State, the EU and the entire free world.”
Turkey, he said, is “a country with a strong economy and is characterized by a diligent and quality workforce,” adding that Israel has good experience with Turkish construction firms.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said earlier this week that two of Turkey’s conditions for normalizing ties have been met, including an Israeli apology for the Mavi Marmara incident and $20 million compensation to be paid to the family of those killed on the ship.
The third Turkish condition is that Israel lift the blockade of Gaza. In lieu of this, Israel is expected to let Ankara provide Gaza with various forms of assistance.
Israel, in turn, has its own conditions, including the removal of Hamas’s Istanbul headquarters.
Galant’s comment came on the same day that Turkey’s ties with Germany went into a downward spiral as Ankara recalled its ambassador from Berlin because the Bundestag voted to recognize the Armenian genocide.