Aug 17, 2022 - World

Turkey and Israel restore full diplomatic relations

President Isaac Herzog of Israel (on left) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey . Photo: Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency via Getty

President Isaac Herzog of Israel (left) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey . Photo: Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Israel and Turkey announced on Wednesday the full normalization of relations and the return of their ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv.

Why it matters: The announcement ends a four-year diplomatic crisis that led to downgraded relations between the two non-Arab regional powers.

Driving the news: The Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement the agreement was reached on Tuesday in a phone call between the director generals of the Israeli and Turkish foreign ministries.

  • Both countries decided to upgrade the relations to full diplomatic representation and return the Israeli ambassador and consul general to Ankara and Istanbul and the Turkish ambassador and consul general to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

What they're saying: “The normalization of ties with Turkey is an asset for regional stability and an economic benefit for the citizens of Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said.

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in a press conference in Ankara that Turkey will appoint an ambassador to Israel soon and both countries will hold a joint economic meeting in the coming weeks. He added that Ankara will continue to support the Palestinians.
  • Several hours after the announcement Lapid spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to the Turkish presidency, Erdogan said that he supports the development of cooperation and dialogue between Turkey and Israel "on a sustainable basis and on the basis of respect for mutual sensitivities".

Flashback: Israeli-Turkish relations have gone through a series of crises over the past decade, most recently in 2018 when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem and Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador from Ankara.

  • After President Biden assumed office, Erdoğan — who also reached out to rivals like Egypt and the UAE — started sending signals that he wants to turn a new page in the relationship.
  • Erdoğan used a congratulatory phone call after President Isaac Herzog was inaugurated in July 2021 to start engaging directly with Israel. They have spoken on the phone several times and Herzog met Erdoğan in Ankara last March.

Çavuşoğlu visited Jerusalem in May for the first visit to Israel by a Turkish foreign minister in 15 years.

  • When Lapid was still the foreign minister in June, he visited Ankara amid an Israeli-Turkish effort to prevent an alleged Iranian plot to attack Israeli tourists in Istanbul.
  • After Israel and Turkey signed a civil aviation agreement last month and several days after Lapid was sworn in as prime minister, he held his first phone call with Erdogan.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials said that Lapid wanted to move slowly in the normalization of ties with Turkey and wanted to see tangible results first.

  • The civil aviation agreement, together with the Turkish counter-terrorism efforts and what was seen as Turkey's restrained response to the latest Gaza operation, led to the decision to move ahead.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Herzog and Erdoğan met in Ankara last March, not last January.

Go deeper