Israel and Turkey flags.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
A day after the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee named Eitan Na’eh as ambassador to Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reciprocated, announcing that Kemal Okem will be Turkey’s next ambassador to Israel.
Okem is a foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, and also served in that capacity to the previous premier, Ahmet Davutoglu.
In addition, Okem has served in the past as the deputy director- general for the Mideast in the Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, and has worked in embassies in London, Riyadh and as the country’s envoy to NATO.
Erdogan told reporters before leaving for a trip to Pakistan that Okem “took up the position yesterday.”
Amira Oron, Israel’s chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Ankara, praised the appointment in an Israel Radio interview, terming Okem “a professional diplomat, very smart, very nice, and a friend of mine.”
Oron said that Okem knows the region well and has visited Israel in the past. “He really understands where he is going, and what he is expected to do.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Erdogan announced a rapprochement agreement in June, bringing to end the crisis in relations stemming from the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident.
The exchange of ambassadors will signal the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties between the two countries. Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv following the Mavi Marmara incident, and expelled Israel’s envoy a year later.
Oron said the attitude toward Israel in Turkey was changing for the better, especially in the business community.
“People are looking for opportunities, they want to visit Israel,” she said. “Over the last week there has been a 16-person delegation at the cyber and homeland security conference in Tel Aviv,” she continued, adding that there was “a green light from the top down” for people to go to Israel and establish joint projects.
Oron said Israel and Turkey share a great many interests.
“The same threats threatening Turkey also threaten us,” she said. “Islamic State, Iranian penetration everywhere, and terrorism.”
There were also common interests and opportunities, specifically in the economic and energy fields, she added.