Gantz restores security ties with Turkey during visit

Israeli defense minister meets with Turkish President Erdogan and counterpart Akar.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz briefs European Union ambassadors on October 19. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI/MOD)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz briefs European Union ambassadors on October 19.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI/MOD)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Ankara on Thursday afternoon, renewing security ties after a decade.

“This is the first meeting of the defense minister with his counterpart and state officials in Turkey in over more than a decade,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “In the framework of these meetings, Gantz will renew official security ties between the countries.”

Gantz landed in the Turkish capital late Wednesday night for the whirlwind visit, just days before the Israeli election. Israeli security officials have been working toward renewing full diplomatic ties between the two countries for several months.

During his meeting with Erdogan, the two men discussed strategic issues and stressed their commitment to “promote stability, prosperity and security” in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, a statement by Gantz’s office said.

Following his meeting with Akar, the two held a joint conference at which Gantz said, “As agreed in our meetings, I instructed my staff to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations.”

Speaking to the press following his meeting with Akar, Gantz said his visit “is a clear signal for positive developments ahead.”

“As agreed in our meetings, I have instructed my staff to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations.”

Benny Gantz
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan are seen before a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 24, 2018. (credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan are seen before a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 24, 2018. (credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

“It is no secret that our ties have faced challenges,” Gantz told Akar during their visit. “Turkey and Israel have both built modern, advanced societies on a foundation rich in history. Our future is promising, yet dependent on our shared interest to maintain security and stability in the region and the world.”

Despite ties being severed for several years, the two countries continued covert communication, especially intelligence sharing to thwart Iranian plots to harm Israelis visiting Turkey.

“This year, as a result of close, covert contact, we succeeded in removing an alarming number of threats against Israeli citizens and Jewish people in Turkey. We are thankful to President Erdogan, Minister Akar and the security agencies involved in this crucial, life-saving cooperation,” Gantz said.

During his meeting with Erdogan, Gantz again thanked the president for Turkey’s role in thwarting the attacks.

“This counter-terrorism activity sheds light on the vast potential for cooperation upon the reestablishment of defense ties between the two countries,” Gantz was quoted as saying by his office.

A senior security official said on Wednesday that despite Erdogan’s Islamist ideology, he “has proven that he knows how to act against terror.”

Both countries have their own interests in the resumption of ties

According to the senior official, both Turkey and Israel have their own interests in the resumption of ties, with Israel hoping to become a stronger strategic player in the region, especially regarding Iran.

Turkey is seen as a key player in the region, including in Syria, where Israel has been working for over a decade to thwart Iran’s plans for a forward base against the Jewish state.

“The Middle East and East-Med regions are changing. Alliances – some of which were unthinkable not long ago – are being built in the face of alarming threats such as the one posed by Iran,” Gantz said while in the Turkish capital. “There is no doubt that Turkey, a NATO member and ally of our common friend the United States, plays an important role in ensuring global stability.”

Erdogan’s continued support for Hamas was one of the reasons that security ties between the two countries were severed over a decade ago, followed by the Mavi Marmara raid. According to the official, Israel will continue to place pressure on Ankara, which continues to support, plan and raise funds for Hamas terrorists to carry out attacks in Israel.

“I believe a lot more can be done together in order to reduce the influence of those who destabilize our regions, by supporting or conducting terrorism against innocent civilians,” Gantz said. “This also applies to the Palestinian arena, and I am confident that deeper defense ties between our countries may have a positive impact on developments in this arena.”