Erdogan authorizes new Turkish ambassador to Israel

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and withdrew its own in 2018, after the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog shake hands during a joint news conference in Ankara, Turkey March 9, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog shake hands during a joint news conference in Ankara, Turkey March 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed off on sending a new ambassador to Israel on Friday, after a four-year absence.

Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, a veteran diplomat and the former Turkish ambassador to the Palestinians, will be posted in Tel Aviv. His most recent position was as a member of Turkey’s Foreign Policy Advisory Board.

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and withdrew its own in 2018, after the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem. Earlier this year, Ankara and Jerusalem agreed to reinstate ambassadors.

Erdogan sent presumptive prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a congratulations letter on Thursday, setting aside past tensions.

“I congratulate you on your victory in the election and believe that the new government will continue the cooperation between the countries in all areas, in a way that will bring peace and stability to our region,” Erdogan wrote, according to Netanyahu’s spokesman.

 TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER Mevlut Cavusoglu meets his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid (before Lapid became premier), in Ankara, last month. Just ahead of Lapid’s visit, Mossad and its local counterpart in Turkey thwarted three Iranian attacks targeting Israeli civilians, including a former ambassador (credit: REUTERS) TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER Mevlut Cavusoglu meets his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid (before Lapid became premier), in Ankara, last month. Just ahead of Lapid’s visit, Mossad and its local counterpart in Turkey thwarted three Iranian attacks targeting Israeli civilians, including a former ambassador (credit: REUTERS)

“I congratulate you on your victory in the election and believe that the new government will continue the cooperation between the countries in all areas, in a way that will bring peace and stability to our region.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish-Israeli relations new low

Israel-Turkey ties reached a low point under Netanyahu’s premiership in 2010, following the Mavi Marmara raid, in which IDF commandos boarded a ship that was aiming to break the blockade on Gaza. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, the commandos killed nine armed activists from an organization affiliated with Erdogan.

Netanyahu eventually apologized to Erdogan, under pressure from Washington, but diplomatic relations did not recover until this year.

The Bennett-Lapid government pursued better ties with Turkey after receiving overtures from Ankara, including phone calls to President Isaac Herzog, who met with Erdogan at his palace in March. Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan in Ankara, as well, and the countries cooperated closely to foil an Iran-backed terrorist plot to abduct Israeli tourists in Istanbul this year.