Herzog in talks for first Israeli presidential visit to Turkey since 2007

Turkey's Erdogan mentioned that he may meet with Herzog, and said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is "sending messages at different levels."

 President Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Isaac Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

President Isaac Herzog could be the first Israeli president to visit Turkey since Shimon Peres in 2007.

Talks are ongoing between the President’s Office and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office for Herzog to visit, a source in Jerusalem confirmed.

The Israeli source emphasized that improvements in Jerusalem-Ankara relations will not come at the expense of Israel’s alliance with Greece and Cyprus, which are Turkey’s historic adversaries.

Natural gas exploration and development, an area in which Israel works with Greece and Cyprus, has been a source of friction between the latter countries and Turkey.

Erdogan mentioned in a press conference on Tuesday that he may meet with Herzog, and said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is “sending messages at different levels.”

 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)

“If we are going to do politics, it can’t be done through confrontation. We have to pursue politics along the path of peace,” he said, adding that he recently met with members of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States.

The President’s Office declined to comment on the matter.

Erdogan and Herzog have spoken on the phone three times since the latter entered office last year; first, to congratulate the Israeli president on his new post, then, after an Israeli couple was released from Turkish prison, and last week, after Herzog’s mother died, which came in addition to a condolence letter.

Last month, Erdogan said Israel and Turkey can exchange ambassadors again if Israel changes course in areas Turkey views as red flags, specifically Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Erdogan made overtures toward Israel throughout 2021, a possible bid for Turkey to get in on the natural gas developments in the region and improve its economy. In addition, improved ties with Israel could help repair bad relations between the Turkish president and US President Joe Biden, who has called Erdogan an autocrat.

The decline in Israel-Turkey ties began in 2008, and hit a low point in 2010 when the Erdogan-linked IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) sent the Mavi Marmara ship to bust the IDF’s naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people aboard. IDF naval commandos stopped the ship, were attacked by IHH members aboard and killed nine of them.

Over the ensuing decade, Israel and Turkey maintained diplomatic relations, even reinstalling ambassadors in 2016, until Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador in 2018 over Israel’s response to rioting on the Gaza border.

In recent years, Turkey harbored Hamas terrorists and backed destabilizing activities in east Jerusalem, and Erdogan accused Israel of intentionally killing Palestinian children.