Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Kavusoglu on Wednesday became the first senior Turkish official to visit Israel in 15 years. After a halt in the Palestinian territories, the foreign minister visits Israel in hopes of bolstering synergy efforts between the countries that withdrew their ambassadors in 2018.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Kavusoglu’s visit is the latest sign of a thaw in relations after Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey in March. Reports say cooperation in exploiting Israel’s vast gas reserves will be part of Cavusoglu’s agenda.
Mithat Rende, the former Turkish ambassador to Qatar, is now an energy industry consultant. He underlines that what he believes is at stake.
“They have to set a positive agenda in the interest of both the sides,” he said. To start with energy cooperation, economic cooperation, trade, tourism, health, agriculture, even with climate change, because it is a very vulnerable sector, [the] Eastern Mediterranean. So both the countries will improve their relations. There is a desire on both sides,” he said.
Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians have led to a breakdown of relations between once-close allies, culminating in the withdrawal of ambassadors from both countries in 2018. Before visiting Israel, Cavusoglu held talks with Palestinian officials on Tuesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly supported the Palestinian cause engaged in fiery rhetoric against Israel. But Erdogan’s reaching out to Israel to repair ties is part of a broader policy by Ankara to address its territorial isolation, says Sinan Ulgen of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, a research organization in Istanbul.
He said, “This is part of a broader strategy that we have been looking at since the beginning of 2020, 2021, where Turkey has essentially decided to restructure its foreign policy following an acknowledgment that the previous aggressive foreign policy has led Turkey to has been taken on the path of regional isolation,” he said.
Cavusoglu is also expected to discuss the ambassadors’ return with his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid. Improvements in bilateral relations would allow Israeli leaders to focus more on Iran, which they viewed as the primary threat to Israel. Erdogan has also criticized Tehran’s growing regional influence.
Galia Lindenstrass, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, a research organization in Tel Aviv, says Israel will be cautious about Turkey’s efforts.
“The reasons for the separation of these two countries are still here: problems with the Israeli-Palestinian region. The problem is that these countries have less common interests than before. The problem is that Turkey is a more revisionist actor, and Israel is a status quo actor in the Middle East. I think all these elements are still here. But if these two countries can manage to get their ambassadors back, we should congratulate them, and hopefully this [brings] Some stability in a very volatile area,” she said.
Some analysts say that Ankara’s efforts at rapprochement with Israel are motivated by the goal of severing Israel’s deepening ties with Turkish rivals Greece and Cyprus and that Israel will proceed cautiously in its dealings with Turkey. He says Israel will be aware that Erdogan’s days in power may be numbered, as he faces re-election next year and is trailing in the polls.