Turkey upgrades relations with Israel to improve ties with the US

In May 2018, Turkey withdrew its envoy over deadly attacks against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

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  • Turkey has designated an ambassador to Israel after a two-year absence.
  • Turkey had earlier called back its ambassador in 2016 in the aftermath of Israel’s deadly attacks on Gazan protestors.
  • Experts have pointed out ways Turkey might seek harmony with Israel to improve ties with the incoming President-elect, Joe Biden.

Ufuk Ulutaş, Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel.

Turkey has designated a new ambassador to Israel after a two-year absence.

In May 2018, Turkey withdrew its envoy over deadly attacks against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Gazans were protesting US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian protesters carry an injured man who was shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at Gaza’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 14, 2018. The Palestinians were protesting the inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The move to appoint Ufuk Ulutaş as the new Turkish ambassador is part of an endeavor to boost ties with incoming President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Turkey first broke off official ties with Israel in 2010 after 10 Turkish activists were murdered by Israeli commandos on a Turkish-owned flotilla.

The Turkish activists were trying to deliver aid and burst Israel’s years-long maritime blockade of Gaza.

Footage from the security cameras of Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-owned flotilla, shows the Turkish activists on board as they prepare to attack incoming Israeli soldiers. The activists were later brutally killed by Israeli forces. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The countries restored ties in 2016, but relations soured again in 2018 in the aftermath of the US embassy move.

Ulutaş’ appointment also comes as several Arab countries – Bahrain, MoroccoSudan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – agreed to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel in deals brokered by outgoing US President Trump.

New Turkish-Israeli ties?

The flags of Israel and Turkey.

After the announcement that an agreement had been signed between Morocco and Israel, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said: “Every country has the right to create ties with any country it wants.”

He only requested his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, that the agreement should not come at the Palestinians’ expense.

The Turkish conglomerate Yıldırım, owned by Robert Yüksel Yıldırım, is planning on bidding for the purchase of a port in Haifa, Israel, against a company from the UAE that is a partner in Israel Shipyards and other companies.

Haifa Port in the city of Haifa, Israel. Haifa used to be a cultural hub for Palestinians and Arabs before it was given to Israel in 1948. (Haifa Port Company)

It is unclear what chances the Turkish company has, but improving ties between Turkey and Israel is a primary condition for boosting those chances.

Despite the new reported appointment of Ulutaş as ambassador, it remains to be seen whether Ankara will establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have often exchanged angry remarks.

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