The Israeli minister would be the first to visit Turkey since it recalled its ambassador to Israel in 2018. Among the reasons: Turkey harbors Hamas terrorists; Erdogan’s AKP Party has compared Israel to Nazi Germany; and it condemns Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and treatment of the Palestinians, despite its own illegal occupations of northern Cyprus and northern Syria and persecution of the Kurds.
However, Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials have made public overtures toward Israel in the past year, and inviting Steinitz to the conference is another step in that vein.
Ankara likely chose Steinitz to invite over other ministers because of gas issues in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes Israel aligning itself with Greece and Cyprus seeking to build a pipeline from Israel to Europe. Israel is also a founding member of the EastMed Gas Forum, which includes Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, along with Greece and Cyprus, but not Turkey.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month at an election campaign event that Israel is “in talks with Turkey” about natural gas, but the Prime Minister’s Office declined to further elaborate on his comments.
Turkey invited senior politicians from around the world to the two-day conference in Antalya, as well as academics, media figures, entrepreneurs and intellectuals.
Cavusoglu said Turkey’s government would reevaluate the state of its relations with Israel if a new Israeli government changes its policies, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.
The Turkish foreign minister denied reports that he chose an envoy to Israel: “If we were to appoint an ambassador to Israel, we would say that openly,” he said. “We have made no such decision.”