Lapid, Erdogan to meet at UN in first in Israel-Turkey relations since 2008

Lapid’s speech to the UN is expected to focus on the Iran nuclear threat and Israel’s opposition to the proposed return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

 PM Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting of the 24th Knesset, July 10th 2022.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PM Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting of the 24th Knesset, July 10th 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid is set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the United Nations General Assembly this week, making him the first Israeli premier to meet Erdogan since 2008.

Lapid’s meeting with Erdogan is another step in the ongoing rapprochement between the countries, including an announcement last month that Israel and Turkey would fully re-normalize relations. Lapid visited Ankara earlier this year, as foreign minister, to meet with his counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Deteriorating relations

The last meeting between Erdogan and an Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in 2008, also marked the start of a deterioration in ties between Jerusalem and Ankara. Two days later, the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead to stop Hamas from shooting missiles at Israeli civilians, and Erdogan viewed the proximity of events as a betrayal.

Relations reached their lowest point in 2010 in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid, in which IDF commandos boarded a ship 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.

Who else is Lapid meeting?

Lapid is expected to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece at the UNGA, as well. Israel has sought to reassure Greece, which has long had tensions with Turkey, that improved relations with Ankara will not hurt their ties.

 TURKISH PRESIDENT RECEP Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara last month. (credit: MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PRESIDENTIAL PALACE/REUTERS) TURKISH PRESIDENT RECEP Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara last month. (credit: MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PRESIDENTIAL PALACE/REUTERS)

Lapid is also scheduled to meet with new Prime Minister of the UK Liz Truss and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and additional meetings may take place.

The prime minister is not expected to meet with US President Joe Biden due to scheduling complications – in part because Biden is set to attend the funeral of England’s Queen Elizabeth II on Monday and Lapid needs to depart the US immediately after his address to the UNGA on Thursday morning to get back to Israel in time for his son’s wedding.

President Isaac Herzog is scheduled to fly to London on Sunday as Israel’s representative at the queen’s funeral. He will be accompanied by his wife Michal.

Herzog will express condolences to King Charles III on his own behalf and on behalf of the people of Israel. Herzog previously met the king at Highgrove House, London in November last year, when the latter’s title was still the Prince of Wales.

What will Lapid talk about?

Lapid’s speech to the UN is expected to focus on the Iran nuclear threat and Israel’s opposition to the proposed return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which Israel views as insufficiently robust or long-lasting.

The premier also plans to take part in the annual gala of the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) in New York, which 500 of the organization’s major supporters are set to attend.

The prime minister’s delegation to New York will include National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Naama Schultz and Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo. They will be accompanied by Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan and Consul-General in New York Asaf Zamir.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.