Bennett thanks Turkey's Erdoğan for release of Israeli couple

This was the first public conversation between an Israeli Prime Minister and Erdoğan since 2013.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting on November 14, 2021 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting on November 14, 2021
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday for his efforts in the release of Israeli couple Natali and Mordi Oaknin from jail in Instanbul.

In the phone call between the two, Bennett praised the communication between Israel and Turkey, which he described as efficient and discreet, on what he called a humanitarian issue.

This was the first public conversation between an Israeli Prime Minister and Erdoğan since 2013.

The couple’s release came after a concerted effort from the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the President’s Office. 

The turning point came when Mossad chief David Barnea spoke to his Turkish counterpart and gave his word that contrary to the Turkish prosecution’s accusation, the Oaknins are not Israeli spies, and have nothing to do with Israeli intelligence.

Israeli Chargé d’Affaires in Turkey, Irit Lillian, was in contact with Erdogan’s senior adviser Ibrahim Kalin, who ultimately informed her on Wednesday afternoon that the Oaknins would be freed.

 Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)

Earlier on Thursday, Erdoğan spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who also thanked the Turkish president and expressed hope for warmer diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.